Fun Fact: About Orchids

October 20, 2022

Fun Fact: There is a genus of orchid in Western Australia that spends its entire lifecycle underground…including flowering.

 Unsurprisingly, it’s really hard to find. The first species, Rhizanthella gardneri, wasn’t discovered until 1928 when a farmer ploughed his field and found the strange, fleshy, leafless plants (see below). As of 2020, there have been five species described, but they are considered to be critically endangered and their locations are kept secret.

Photo credit: Jean and Fred Hort (

Since they spend their whole lives underground and away from the sun, species of the genus rhizanthella (from the Greek: rhiza [root], and Anthos [flower]…root flower) have given up their ability to photosynthesise and instead rely on a complicated, multi-species relationships to survive. Rhizanthella species are mycotrophic (plants that get all or part of their carbon, water, or nutrients from fungi), but the fungus that it relies on also has a mycorrhizal relationship (fungi that have symbiotic relationships with plants) with the broom bush shrub, which it relies on for photosynthesized carbohydrates. The relationship is so critical that the seeds of the orchid will only germinate when infected by a fungus that is actively “mycorrhizing” with the broom bush.

When it flowers, the blooms typically stay several centimetres below the soil surface, with the very tips of the flowers poking through the surface only occasionally. We don’t know who pollinates it, how many there are, why they have bothered to keep their chloroplasts…

We’re completely in the dark on this one…researchers are practically buried in work… ok, no m-orchid-ding around…

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Paragon Golf Tournament 2022 Fundraiser

October 14, 2022

Thank you to our sponsors and employees who helped us raise $1,820 for YESS this year during the Paragon staff golf tournament. You’re all the best, by par 😉

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Fun Fact: Mushroom Houses

October 6, 2022

Fun Fact: Mushroom houses are coming and they know if you’re feeling cold.

 An international team of researchers and industry partners from the UK, Denmark, Italy, and the Netherlands are working on a new type of smart building grown from mycelium (the root-like structures of fungi) that is capable of adaptively reacting to changes in light, temperature, and air pollutants. The Fungal Architectures (FUNGAR) Project brings together architecture, computer science, mycology, and industry experts to integrate living fungi into a structurally and environmentally performing building fabric.

 FUNGAR started when Professor Adamatzky, Director of the Centre of Unconventional Computing at UWE Bristol, discovered that fungi respond to external stimuli such as changes in lighting and temperature with spikes of electrical activity. The objective is to build a building that will be able to recognise lighting levels, chemicals in the environment, the presence of people, and touch. Acting as a massively-parallel computer, the building will control connected devices like lights and heaters depending on the environmental conditions. By using mycelia as both an integrated structural and computational substrate, the building will have low production and running costs and embedded artificial intelligence. It will also be made from natural materials, lightweight, waterproof and recyclable when it reaches the end of its life.

 Mycelium-based building products have been on the market for a while already, but existing approaches involve growing the fungi to the required shape (e.g., bricks, blocks, or sheets), and then drying them to produce a stable, inert, but no-longer-living composite. The living building material for the FUNGAR Project will act as its own parallel computer for environmental regulation and adaptation.

 I hope they build their building… There’s so mushroom for development in this emerging field. I’m sure there are lots of people willing to champignon their work…and they shouldn’t have any truffle publishing…

 If you’re interested in reading more about FUNGAR, you can find their website here:

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Truth and Reconciliation Day 2022

September 29, 2022

In honour of Truth and Reconciliation Day and our partnership with the McMurray Metis Local 1935 community, Paragon will match up to $5,000 in contributions to the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre in Fort McMurray.

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AIA Banff Conference 2022

September 5, 2022

This year’s AIA Banff Conference will be held October 30 to November 1, 2022 with the theme of “Regulatory Reform, Knowledge, and You”. Click on the link for more information:

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Wetland Centre Open House 2022

August 23, 2022

Ducks Unlimited Canada is hosting a free open house at the Wetland Centre in Grande Prairie from 12pm to 5pm on October 5, 2022. Sounds like it will be an interesting time filled with refreshments, site tours, and other activities.

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CLRA Peatland Restoration Workshop 2022

August 10, 2022

We had a great time at the CLRA Peatland Restoration Workshop in Manitoba! It was refreshing to meet others working in the industry, share ideas regarding reclamation, and see some restoration techniques in person. Highly recommended for those interested in the subject.

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Fun Fact: About Giant Waterlily

August 4, 2022

Fun Fact: Kew Gardens lost track of a giant waterlily with three-metre-wide leaves for 177 years.

Until now, Victoria boliviana was mis-identified as one of the two known varieties V. amazonica and V. cruziana, but researchers at Kew Gardens noticed differences in the patterns of the spines that are used to clear space for their unfurling leaves. V. boliviana is now recognized as the largest species of giant waterlily. Its leaves expand by 25 cm a day and can hold the weight of an adult (more than 170 lbs). Turns out a mis-labelled specimen has been sitting at Kew since 1845!

In addition to their famously large leaves, giant waterlilies also have a very cool two-night reproductive cycle. On night one, the temperature of the white female flower rises 10 degrees C, triggering it to open and attracting pollinator beetles to its sweet, pineapple scent. At dawn, the flower cools and closes, trapping the beetles inside. They get to spend the day cool and shaded and sipping away at nectar while the flower changes from white to pink and male to female. On the second night, the newly male flower opens, brushing the beetles with pollen as they leave and head to another white female flower.

If you’re interested in reviewing the paper about the new species, follow this link:

If you’re into unnecessarily dramatic plant videos, follow this link to see a V. amazonica leaf unfurl:

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Paragon Adventure Day 2022

August 2, 2022

We had an enjoyable and exciting team building session at Snow Valley Aerial Park back in June 2022. Thank you for the good memories and beautiful pictures!

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Fun Fact: Plants as weapons

July 28, 2022

Fun Fact: The seeds of the velvet bean plant cause such intense itching that they were weaponized by the British during WW2.

Hairs lining the seed pods of Mucuna pruriens, or velvet bean, contain serotonin and mucunain, which cases sever itching when touched. Scratching the affected area spreads the hairs and the itching, causing victims to scratch uncontrollably.

In an effort to demoralize the Third Reich during WW2, the British SOE (Special Operations Executive) smuggled itching powder made from M. pruriens to resistance groups working as laundresses and clothiers. The powder was applied to clothing, bedding, and toilet paper, but was particularly effective when applied to clothing touching “the more tender parts of the human anatomy”. The powder was so irritating that a U-Boat had to return to port for medical treatment because crew uniforms had been contaminated with it, causing an outbreak severe dermatitis.

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