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California's Seaweed Herbarium

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In this seven-minute video, seaweed expert Kathy Ann Miller, PhD, takes us on a tour of the seaweed portion the Herbarium at the University of California, Berkeley -- and also the beaches where the seaweed is collected. Now, I'll level with you: seaweed may not sound cool to your average cat-video-clicker online. But I found this to be a fascinating tour of a topic I knew little about.

Miller and her students are digitizing 400 or more specimens each day; they make high-resolution digital photos and add the seaweed specimens to a database. They're cataloging seaweeds along the west coast of the US, including tracking invasive species.

Want to see some beautiful seaweed? Check this out:

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125 Million Years Ago, One of the World's Very First Flowers Bloomed
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Ferocious dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the early Cretaceous Period (145 to 100 million years ago), but beneath their giant feet, a tiny—yet important—evolutionary movement was beginning to take root. During the previous Jurassic Era, the world had been filled with ferns, conifers, and cycads, and nary a flower bloomed. This changed around 125 million years ago, our fossil records show, when one of the word’s very first flowers, Archaefructus liaoningensis, sprouted in what is now northeastern China. This preserved plant marks the beginning of angiosperms, which are fruiting plants that rely on animals to spread their capsule-enclosed seeds.

In the video below, PBS Eons explains why angiosperms were so important to early life on Earth, and how they took over the world to eventually account for more than 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial plants.

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From Bloom to Bottle: How Iran's Purple Flower Fields Produce Saffron, the World's Most Expensive Spice
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Before it’s bottled and sold in Western grocery stores, saffron—the world’s most expensive spice—begins its life cycle in the Middle East as a delicate purple flower. The sweetly floral substance is derived from the crocus flower’s dried stamen, but harvesting these pollen-producing parts is neither easy, nor cheap, for farmers: It takes them 40 hours to hand-pick enough stamens to produce a single pound of saffron, and a football field’s worth of flowers to boot. For this reason, pound for pound, saffron is more expensive than gold.

National Geographic’s video below takes us to the crocus fields of Iran, where nearly 90 percent of the world’s saffron supply is produced.

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