Fun Fact: Plants and stress

May 5, 2022

Fun Fact: Your distressed house plants are living out a silent horror movie.

A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University has recorded “high frequency distress sounds” emitted from tobacco and tomato plants. After stressing the plants by cutting their stems and depriving them of water (rude), the researchers recorded their responses with a microphone. In both cases they found the plants emitted ultrasonic sounds between 20 and 100 kilohertz, which they suggested conveyed their distress to other plants and organisms in the immediate vicinity.

The plants seemed to respond with different intensities of sound to different sources of stress. The team observed that tobacco plants “screamed” louder when they were deprived of water than when they had their stems cut. They believe that listening for sounds emitted by plants could help with precision agriculture and identify problems with crops.

If you’re interested in more reading, their paper can be found here:

But take it with a grain of salt… or a tablespoon because it was not published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Texturing Lab

May 2, 2022

We’re ready to get our hands dirty! Here’s a peek at Konstantin Dlusskiy leading an internal soil texturing lab to keep our staff updated for another busy summer season.

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Fun Fact: Plants in Traffic

April 28, 2022

Fun Fact: Plants hate being stuck in traffic.

It’s easy to understand the ecological damage animals suffer as a result of noise pollution, but it has been less clear how it affects plants…until now. The indirect effects are obvious. Flowering species depend on pollinators and fruit-bearing species need animals to disperse their seeds. If the noise is a problem for their animal partners, botanical counterparts will also suffer. A recent study by Dr. Ghotbi-Ravandi, a botanist at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, has shown that plants are also directly affected by noise.

A number of experiments have shown that plants can sense ultrasound waves as they are struck by them, but this isn’t quite the same as urban noise pollution. In their lab, Dr. Ghotbi-Ravandi and his team grew two species that are commonly found in urban environments: French marigolds (Tagetes patula) and scarlet sage (Salvia splendens). Once mature, the plants were divided into two groups. One was exposed to 73 decibels of traffic noise for 16 hours a day, and the other was left to grow in silence. After just 15 days all of the plants in the noisy group were suffering. Two chemical compounds (hydrogen peroxide and malondialdehyde) that are indicators of stress in plants were found at much higher levels (2 to 3 times) in the group exposed to the traffic noise. Two stress hormones (jasmonic acid and abscisic acid) which are normally produced to fend off insect attacks and deal with harsh environmental conditions, were also elevated, and a range of hormones normally associated with healthy growth and development were present at significantly reduced levels in the plants exposed to the noise.

The vibrations generated by traffic noise bothered the plants in the study enough to trigger stress responses that are not much different than if they had been exposed to drought, high salinity, or heavy metals in their soil. . I guess we’ll have to call it “road sage” now…

If you’re interested in more reading, see their paper: Z.H. Kafash, Khoramnejadian S., Ghotbi-Ravandi A.A., Dehghan S.F. 2022. Traffic noise induces oxidative stress and phytohormone imbalance in two urban plant species. Basic and Applied Ecology. Volume 60. Pages 1-12.

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Canada Ukraine Foundation

April 26, 2022

Paragon was founded by a proud Ukrainian, one of many who play a major role in Alberta’s history, present, and future. The current need for humanitarian support is immense, so please consider donating to the Canada Ukraine Foundation at the link below. Paragon will be matching donations up to $5,000. Thank you for your support.

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CSSS ASSW 2022 – Annual Meeting

April 20, 2022

The 2022 joint annual conference of Canadian Society of Soil Science (CSSS) and Alberta Soil Science Workshop (ASSW) is scheduled in Edmonton for May 23-27, 2022 with mid and post-conference field trips planned for May 26 (Edmonton) and May 28-30 (Prairies and Rockies). Konstantin Dlusskiy is leading the preparation of the tours while Scott Boorman will be presenting the reclamation program. For more information please visit the website for the conference:

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Hiring: Vegetation Ecologist

April 18, 2022

Love vegetation? We are looking for Vegetation Ecologists to join our team! If this sounds like an unbe-leaf-able fit for you, please send your resume to

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Hiring: Soil Specialist

April 18, 2022

Passionate about soil? We dig it 😊 We are looking for Soil Specialists to join the Paragon team! Share your passion for the outdoors with us and send your resume to

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Hiring: Soil Handling Monitor

April 18, 2022

Talk dirt to me 😊 We are looking for Soil Handling Monitors to join Paragon Soil! Share your passion for the environment with us and send your resume to

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Fun Fact: Flower Petals

April 14, 2022

Fun Fact: Roman emperor Heliogabalus (203 – 222 AD) once dropped so many flower petals on his dinner guests that they drowned.

While we slowly get back to socialising, one might feel a twinge of anxiety at the idea of hosting a get-together. But don’t worry, it will never go as poorly as this one did:

It was such a disastrous event that someone commissioned a painting about it 1,600 years later. The Roses of Heliogabalus was painted in 1888 by Anglo-Dutch artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and depicted the young emperor hosting a banquet. The original account of the (likely exaggerated) story from Historia Augusta described a false ceiling that fell away to release a fluttering and then a torrent of violet petals. Alma-Tadema, apparently a student of floriography, decided that roses would be more appropriate. Violets represent faithfulness and modesty according to the Victorian ‘language’… none of that here.

Since roses were out of season at the time and every petal needed to be perfect, fresh roses were shipped in weekly from the south of France during the four months it took to complete the painting. A simpler solution might have been to wait until spring, but who am I to judge. Artists can be a prickly bunch.

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Fun Fact: Foxfire

April 7, 2022

Fun Fact: The controls of the first combat submarine were illuminated by mushrooms.

The submersible, named “Turtle” was invented by Yale College undergrad David Bushnell in 1775 and has a documented record of use in combat during the American Revolutionary War. The design allowed the operator to affix an explosive charge to the hull of a ship and tootle away (at a max speed of 3 mph) before the charge exploded. It was also the first submersible to use water as ballast, the first to be equipped with a breathing device, and the first to demonstrate that gunpowder could be exploded underwater. It also used foxfire from bioluminescent fungi to illuminate the needles on its internal instruments so that they could be read in the dark.

Foxfire (derived from the French ‘faux’ for false) is the bioluminescence created by some species of fungi. It occurs in a number of species including Panellus stipticus (below), Omphalotus olearius, and O. nidiformis. The blueish-greenish glow is attributed to luciferin, which emits light after oxidation catalyzed by the enzyme luciferase. The earliest record of foxfire is from 382 BC, by Aristotle. He described a light that, unlike fire, was cold to the touch. Depending on the species, the light emitted can be bright enough to read by. Some scholars attribute foxfire to the will-o’-the-whisp phenomenon described in English folklore, but under different names, is also part of the folklore of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Canada, the US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Bangladesh, India, Japan, China, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Australia, and probably more… pretty much everyone.

Despite its glowing dials, Turtle was never successful in battle. The Americans thought that it reflected both their ingenuity after the fall of New York and their tendency to adopt and embrace new, sometimes radical technologies. The British made no record of it.

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