Meet the Scientist- Eirini Xemantilotou

Hi Everyone!

It is time you to meet another scientist this week I would like to introduce you to Eirini Xemantilotou who is a 3rd year PhD student at the University of St Andrews and the James Hutton Institute.

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How plant science will change the world — The Biochemist Blog

Before Christmas I was given the opportunity to write a post for The Biochemist Blog- check it out via the link below!

By Erica Hawkins, John Innes Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich Plant science is a lot more important than you realise. It has often been cast as cell biology’s less exciting sibling. What is the point of studying root growth, flowering or stomatal aperture? There are way more important things to be researching… aren’t there?

via How plant science will change the world — The Biochemist Blog

Tomatoes, Resveratrol and Humans

Hi everyone,

Since starting up on instagram I have had quite a few questions about my project- and about why I am working with human cells when I am a plant biologist! So, in this weeks post I am going to talk to you a bit more about my PhD research.

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Science Superwomen

Hi everyone!

11th February is the international day of women and girls in science.  For this day, I wanted to share with you 15 women of Science that you should know about. All these women have contributed to science in amazing ways- from breaking down barriers in the sciences, to making outstanding discoveries in their fields. These women have, and will continue to inspire women to pursue careers in Science no matter their backgrounds.

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Out of this world plants

On Wednesday I attended (and volunteered at) a pint of science event- “An evening with an astronaut”. This was an amazing event with Dr Michael Foale (astronaut) and ISSET Director Chris Barber- which showed us about what it is like living in space.

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Five Plants of Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

In celebration of the upcoming Christmas celebrations here is a more Christmassy themed post- a few facts about our favourite christmas plants.

1.) Mistletoe.

“Christmas time, Mistletoe and wine…”

Mistletoe is a plant which has been written about in stories, poems and songs for hundreds of years, and now is synonymous with Christmas. It is a semi-parasitic plant-taking essential nutrients from its host plant, but is also able to make some things itself. Mistletoe grows in the canopies of trees, and can grow into huge balls up to 1m wide. Although Mistletoe may look pretty- its poisonous, so don’t go eating any of its beautiful white berries!


Mistletoe leaves are green all year round- the greenery of mistletoe in the depths of winter and abundance of its berries shows its vitality in an otherwise dormant season- and may be why it has been such a popular decoration in homes since the 16th century.

As for the kissing under the mistletoe? Its a tradition that has been around since the 1700s… though the reason behind it is unknown!

2) Holly

“The Holly bears a berry…”

Holly is an evergreen shrub with glossy spiky dark green leaves, and bright red berries. These berries are a important source of food for many birds and animals- though I wouldn’t recommend you eat them unless you want to be extremely ill for Christmas, as like mistletoe holly berries are toxic.


Interestingly- Holly trees don’t contain both male and female organs, instead being either Male or Female, with only the female trees produce the red berries. So, the holly we often see in decorations for Christmas are from female Holly trees.

As another plant which stays vibrant green, and produces beautiful berries- Holly represents fertility, and was thought to protect homes in which it was hung.

Holly is associated with males- bringing good luck and protection, with Ivy being the female counterpart. This is why so many Christmas carols refers to both the Holly and the Ivy.

3.) Ivy

“The Holly and the Ivy…”

Ivy is commonly seen growing up through trees, or on the side of buildings, and is one of the UK’s few native evergreen plants. As with Holly, Ivy is extremely important for wildlife, providing much needed shelter and food- although once again Ivy is poisonous to us. Poison Ivy often talked about in America, is completely unrelated to Ivy.

Ivy has got a bad rep over the years- said to suffocate plants, and be very damaging- though this is not true! Although Ivy does use trees for climbing, it isn’t parasitic and so doesn’t directly harm trees.


As a evergreen plant, like Holly and Mistletoe, it was seen as a important symbol in winter keeping evil sprits away. A wreath of Ivy around the head was even thought to prevent you from getting drunk- which could be worth trying out at the office Christmas party!

4.) Chestnuts

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

The chestnut is a group of 8-9 species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the family Fagaceae, and also refers to the edible nuts produced. Chestnuts are not the same as Horse chestnuts (the nuts are mildly poisonous), or water chestnuts!


Chestnuts are very different from other nuts as they are low in fat, high in fibre, and high in a whole load of minerals and vitamins- making them the perfect Christmas feast! They are also the only nut to contain vitamin C.

5.) Poinsettias

The flower of winter. Poinsettias are shrubs or small trees, which have dark green leaves, and coloured bracts (specialised leaves)- we mostly see poinsettias with Red bracts, but these can also be orange, pale green and pink. Although these bracts give the appearance of petals, they are actually leaves!


Poinsettias are one of the most popular plants for Christmas floral arrangements- with their bright green and red leaves, but they aren’t the ‘obvious’ Christmas plant choice, being a plant native to Mexico. The Poinsettia is a fairly recent addition to Christmas- it was only introduced to America in 1828. Although it took a while to catch on, Poinsettias are now found in Christmas floral arrangements everywhere.

Why are Poinsettas linked to Christmas? There are a few theories, one is that the plant is a symbol of the star of Bethlehem.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, I will be having a break and returning after the New Year with more blog posts for you 🙂


All photos from Pixabay.