Geology, exploration & pollen in the ‘Age of Man’

Anthropocene: New dates proposed for the ‘Age of Man’ –


Barley – the ideal food for mountain living?

New research in Science Magazine suggests that around 3600 years ago, farmers on the Tibetan Plateau started growing crops on slopes higher up on the Plateau, choosing to grow cold, frost-tolerant barley in favour of more traditional but less hardy crops such as millet.

Surprisingly, the expansion of agriculture on the Plateau seems to have occurred when the Tibetan climate was getting colder, suggesting that the switch to barley made growing crops possible at higher elevations, despite a worsening climate.

Archaeologist Kurt Rademaker calls it “a fascinating example of a cultural strategy to tackle a challenging place,”.

Click here to read more…

Top Ten Trees of the World: No. 7

At number 7 we have Liquidambar orientalis: the Oriental sweet gum – one of my favourite trees of all time!

Native to SW Asia, the name Liquidambar refers to its aromatic gum, previously described as ‘liquid amber’. Orientalis is Latin and means ‘from the East’ (Source: Davis Landscape Architects).

Deciduous, broad-leaved and often found in parks and arboretums in temperate zones (e.g. Kew Gardens, ANU Canberra), Liquidambar is famed for its show-stopping Autumnal display when its palm-shaped leaves turn from green to vibrant shades of orange, scarlet or purple.

Liquidambar produces beautiful round pollen grains covered with large pores – click here to see some photos.

The exterior ‘shell’ (exine) of this and other pollen grains are made of decay-resistant sporopollenin, enabling grains to be preserved for thousands of years in lake sediments, peat bogs and other depositional environments – providing a record of the types of vegetation that grew in the past.




The hidden beauty of pollen revealed

Check out these beautiful pollen sculptures by Jo Golesworthy.

The average pollen grain measures between 20 and 150 microns (1 micron = 1000th of a millimeter) so these super-sized works of art offer a glimpse of a world normally hidden to the naked eye.

The sculptures highlight the unique beauty of pollen. Pollen grains come in many different shapes and sizes; their surfaces are often decorated with complex patterns, holes and indentations.

These unique features are used by pollen analysts (palynologists) to identify fossil pollen grains preserved in ancient soils. Palynologists use this information to reconstruct past environments and climates, deepening our understanding of Earth’s history.