April Fool's Day Botany
Plant life that exists only on April 1st
A German garden journal, Möllers Deutsche Gärtner Zeitung (15:148), printed details about a fictitious species of cactus, Echinocereus dahliaeflorus, in its April edition. The editor of the journal apparently forgot his own joke because he indexed the cactus name at the end of the year. [The Cactaceae]
The German Gardener's News, edited by Herr Möller, issued an April Fool's Day edition that discussed various botanical discoveries, such as varieties of flowers that were so phosphorescent they gave sufficient light to read by. "Under proper conditions the flowers of the clematis glow like stars, while sunflowers, if correctly nurtured, make it quite possible to read a newspaper by their unaided light." A photograph showed Herr Möller reading by the light of sunflower lamps in his garden at 10 o'clock at night.
Old Rye Willow Trees.
"Old Rye, N.H.—A freak windstorm spells things in branches of willow trees." [Life, Mar 22, 1937.]
Skyforest Orange Trees.
Residents of Skyforest, near Lake Arrowhead in Southern California, staged an elaborate prank. Twenty-five of them, led by cartoonist Frank Adams, crept out during the night and strung 50,000 oranges along a one-mile section of the scenic Rim of the World highway, making it appear that the region's pine and cedar trees had suddenly grown fruit. The oranges were leftovers from the recent National Orange Show in San Bernardino. [The Independent Record (Helena, Montana), Apr 2, 1950.]
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest.
The respected BBC news show Panorama ran a segment revealing that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."
In Denver, an unknown prankster transformed stop signs into giant flowers. It was suspected to be the work of "a recent arrival from neighboring Kansas, the sunflower state." [Spokane Daily Chronicle - Apr 2, 1958]
The Yenom Tree.
VIEW magazine revealed the existence of the Yenom Tree, a "rare perennial" owned by Mrs. Loo Flirpa of Appleton, Wisconsin, which sprouted "bright, green American one-dollar bills with uniformly high serial numbers." In an unusual mutation, this year the Yenom Tree had also sprouted a "flawless five-dollar bill." Mrs. Flirpa had entered into "an exclusive arrangement with the U.S. Mint to sell Yenom tree seedlings through a system of greenhouses to be operated through local offices of the Federal Reserve System."
"Observe the flowers, how they grow — but in Central Park, in the snow? Free Press photographer Jack Ablett and reporter Janice Keys just happened to be strolling in the park Thursday — April Fools' Day, you remember — when they spotted this rare sight." [Winnipeg Free Press - Apr 1, 1971]
Dutch Elm Disease Infects Redheads.
BBC Radio interviewed a "Dr. Clothier" about the government's efforts to stop the spread of Dutch Elm Disease. Dr. Clothier described some recent discoveries, such as the research of Dr. Emily Lang who had found that exposure to Dutch Elm Disease immunized people to the common cold.
Unfortunately, there was a side effect. Exposure to the disease also caused red hair to turn yellow. This was attributed to a similarity between the blood count of redheads and the soil conditions in which affected trees grew. Therefore, redheads were advised to stay away from forests for the foreseeable future. Dr. Clothier was actually the comedian Spike Milligan disguising his voice.
Breakthrough in Plant Communication.
The Kansas Hutchinson News reported that the Kansas Botanical Research Laboratory had made a breakthrough in plant communication by creating a device that allowed plants to "talk" in near-human terms.
The scientists realized they could converse with plants by translating their own voices through a computer into the form of "vibration waves" which the plants could respond to. "I'm not saying that it's possible to have any great philosophical discussion with the ferms or any nonsense like that," the chief scientist admitted, "but we do have some form of two-way communication."
The Dinosaur Vine.
Garden News magazine revealed that a prehistoric plant had been discovered growing out of a fossilised stegosaurus dropping found preserved within a Mojave Desert cave. The plant, dubbed the dinosaur vine, was being studied by Professor Adge Ufult.
The Red-Foliaged Cabbage Patch Doll.
The Daily Star reported that a farmer named "Ivor Binhad" was making the equivalent of $2579 an hour in grants from the European Common Market under its crop diversification scheme. The crop he was growing went by the scientific name of brassica caulis pannus haedus, aka the "red-foliaged cabbage patch doll".
The London Times reported that a gardener had succeeded in developing a variety of grass that grew only one inch a year, no matter how wet or dry the year was. The inventor of the seed was Clement Marchdone, a 73-year-old retired Essex seedsman living in Cutter's Green, near Chelmsford. Marchdone had also solved the problem of keeping stripes in a lawn because "when the grass starts to show, you go up and down with a roller; the grass will continue to grow in that direction forever."
Solar Complexus Americanus.
The Glasgow Herald described the recent arrival in Britain of a new energy-saving miracle: heat-generating plants. These plants, known by the scientific name Solar complexus americanus, were imports from Venezuela. One plant alone, fed by nothing more than three pints of water a day, generated as much heat as a 2kw electric fire. A few of these horticultural wonders placed around a house could entirely eliminate the need for a central-heating system, and when submerged in water, the plants created a constant supply of hot water. The Scandinavian botanist responsible for discovering these hot-air producers was Professor Olaf Lipro.
The British supermarket chain Tesco published an advertisement in The Sun announcing the successful development of a genetically modified 'whistling carrot.' The ad explained that the carrots had been engineered to grow with tapered airholes in their side. When fully cooked, these airholes caused the vegetable to whistle.
The Tour de France Sunflower Conspiracy.
The bicycle magazine VeloNews revealed the shocking truth behind the Tour de France: The fields of sunflowers lining the tour's route were the result of a secret program of genetic manipulation designed to produce flowers that would exactly match the color of the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. Unfortunately, these genetically engineered sunflowers were also prone to fungal infection. Those concerned were "embarking on a nationwide campaign to warn farmers about the risks involved in accepting cash, seeds or other considerations to plant flowers along the route of this year's Tour."
Exploding Maple Trees.
NPR's All Things Considered ran a segment on a drop in maple syrup consumption, triggered by the low-carb craze, which supposedly was causing a serious problem for New England's maple-tree industry: exploding maple trees. The announcer reported: "An untapped tree is a time bomb ready to go off… The trees explode like gushers, causing injuries and sometimes death. If untended, quiet stands of Nature's sweeteners can turn into spindly demons of destruction. The Vermont Health Board reports 87 fatalities, 140 maimings, and a dozen decapitations, caused by sap-build-up explosions this year."
Royal Family Tree.
The Daily Mirror reported that an oak tree bearing the likeness of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince Charles had been found by "Lionel Day" as his dog chased a squirrel. "The exact location of the tree in the New Forest, Hampshire," the article noted, "is being kept secret because of fears it could attract druids."
The Paper Tree.
List Universe posted a list of the Top 10 Bizarre Genetically Modified Organisms, which included the "paper tree."
This tree had been developed "to reduce production costs and loss of tree life in the paper manufacturing industry." A Swiss-based company had developed the tree which grew square leaves that, when dried, were already usable as writing paper.
British supermarket chain Waitrose placed ads in newspapers announcing the availability of a new fruit, the pinana (a combination of pineapple and banana). The text of the ad read:
Pinanas. Fresh in today and exclusive to Waitrose. If you find that all Waitrose pinanas have sold out, don't worry, there's 50% off our essential Waitrose strawberries."
The Heineken Ellipsus.
Heineken revealed that the Keukenhof gardens had succeeded in creating a new type of tulip that looked like a glass of Heineken beer — yellow with a white head, and a red star like the Heineken logo. The tulip had been named the Ellipsus, after the Heineken glass.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.