Viridi
Viridi

There Is a Video Game Where You Just Take Care of Succulents

Viridi
Viridi

In Viridi, there are no attackers and no countdown clock. Instead, in a game that seems diametrically opposed to the anxiety inherent in most video games, the point is to tend to pretty desert plants.

Viridi’s premise is simple: Help your succulents thrive. You pick from a handful of starter plants, choose a pot, and click around to water your seedlings, taking care to make sure each plant is properly sated. A snail slowly circles the top edge of the pot. Your plants grow, albeit slowly. The unobtrusive, gentle music wouldn’t be out of place in a massage parlor or yoga studio. 

At first, it can be hard to resist the urge to click willy-nilly, waiting for something new to happen. But like real plants, the succulents can be overwatered, and clicking on the wrong place can delete your fledgling shoots. It’s an exercise in patience, more soothing than stimulating.

The experience is meditative. You can run the game in the background throughout the day, listening to the subdued soundtrack and periodically checking in on your baby Aloes and Pachyphytums. This is not the sort of video game you play for a few minutes at your desk, rack up points, and go back to work. It’s an unusually calming digital experience. Now you can take a meditation break even if you can’t leave your desk. 

The game is free for desktop users (you have to download Steam first). If so inclined, you can purchase a greater variety of seeds to plant for a few cents each. Mobile versions for iOS and Android are scheduled to roll out sometime in the next year. 

[h/t: Co.Design]

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This Plant Can Burn Your Skin With Its Sap—And It May Be Coming to Your Neighborhood
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iStock

It's huge, it's extremely dangerous, and it's spreading. The giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) contains a corrosive sap that causes severe rashes, third-degree burns, and even permanent blindness if you get the photosensitive chemicals on your skin or in your eyes, Science Alert reports.

The noxious, invasive weed was just identified in Clarke County, Virginia, near the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech. That brings the number of states it's been spotted in to 11, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine. Beyond the U.S., it has taken root all over the world, from the UK to Iceland to Australia.

Similar to the common but slightly less dangerous cow parsnip, giant hogweed is native to Central Asia and was first brought to North America in the early 1990s as an ornamental plant, its unique shape making it popular among gardeners. But it soon became invasive: Once it’s established in an area, it can take up to five years to eradicate a colony.

Now the plant is considered a public health concern. Hogweed can cause a reaction known as phytophotodermatitis when it comes into contact with skin that is subsequently exposed to UV rays—but the effects of hogweed are much more severe. A painful blister can develop within hours and last for months; the exposed skin can remain sensitive to sunlight for years even after the blisters heal.

Hogweed can be difficult to distinguish from the cow parsnip, and the plant is often misidentified. First, check for height: Hogweeds are typically taller than 8 feet, while cow parsnip tends to be 5 to 8 feet tall. Hogweed stems are green with purple specks and coarse white hairs, while parsnip stems are green with fine white hairs. For more tips and photos, check out the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s guide.

If you see a plant you think might be a giant hogweed, take a few photos and send them to your state's department of agriculture to identify—and whatever you do, don't touch it.

[h/t Science Alert]

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How to Spot Poison Ivy, According to a Scientist
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iStock

If you're a former scout, you've probably heard the rhyme “leaves of three, let it be.” This mnemonic device, used to steer intrepid outdoorspeople away from poisonous ivy and oak, is generally sound advice for ensuring you don’t come home with a nasty rash. Not all three-leaved plants are the enemy, though, and several harmless plants are often confused with poison ivy.

Microbiologist John Jelesko shared some tips with NPR for identifying this pernicious plant. First, it helps to know what you’re up against. Poison ivy is a master of disguise and can take many different shapes and sizes. It can appear in small patches, take the form of creeping vines or a bush, and can even mimic the appearance of a tree it has wrapped itself around. The leaves can have either “smooth, jagged, or lobed edges” and may or may not bear white or greenish berries.

If the plant has thorns, you can be sure it’s not poison ivy, whose mode of attack is a little more stealthy. In the city, Jelesko had found that climbing vines are the more common form; look out for ground-creeping vines in forested areas. While there are exceptions to this rule, Jelesko’s research found that poison ivy tends to take different forms depending on the landscape.

A longer middle stem and a hairy vine are also signs that you could be dealing with poison ivy. If you have a plant in your garden that you can’t identify, you can conduct a “black dot test” to see if it’s poison ivy. Put on a pair of gloves, tear a leaf in half, and place the sap on a sheet of white paper. If it’s urushiol oil (the rash-causing chemical in poison ivy), it will turn black within 30 minutes.

Sometimes, even our best efforts to identify poison ivy may fail. If you think you may have brushed up against it, don’t panic—take a shower within a few hours of contact. That should keep your chance of developing a rash at a minimum.

[h/t NPR]

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