Behind the Scenes with Matt McClellan

Departments - Behind the Scenes

November 5, 2013

Plants as paint

Artists work in many different mediums, whether it’s paint, metals, wood, clay or something else entirely (looking at you, Piero Manzoni).

Michigan horticulturalist Dave MacKenzie’s unconventional chosen medium is plants. MacKenzie is president of Hortech, a plant wholesaler that designs and manufactures LiveWall and LiveRoof systems. His art has a few similarities to his work.

MacKenzie has a vision of a “gray to green” Eden-like future, in which buildings, homes, bridges, parking lots and roadways are clothed in greenery, and where plants play a vital role in the ecological health of the planet. That philosophy served as inspiration for his 2013 installation, “Back to Eden,” which has been placed in the Top 25 by public vote in ArtPrize, the competition with the world’s largest art prize.

The project, located in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., is a multi-dimensional visual expression of horticulture comprising 60 varieties of 2,500 perennial, annual and edible plants. Highlights include hot pink New Guinea impatiens, red double-begonias, pineapple coleus and even ripe strawberries and green peppers. Various colors and textures are tied together with a tendril of purple vining through the 11-foot by 130-foot canvas.

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Money does grow on trees?

Scientists in Australia have found eucalyptus leaves that are imbued with small amounts of pure gold. These gilded leaves can help companies discover new, underground gold deposits that are more than 100 feet below the surface.

The research, led by Melvyn Lintern at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), discovered that small amounts of gold are dissolved in water, which is then sucked up by tree roots. These particles eventually find themselves deposited in the leaves of the trees.

Check out the research paper in Nature Communications: