Low growing ground cover with yellow flowers. It resembles clover with its three-fold leaves, but also has seed burrs, so together those characteristics give it its common name.
Legumes like the burclover have a special relationship with the soil. They are hosts to micro-organisms that convert nitrogen into a form that other plants and animals can use.
A model organism is one that has certain characteristics that make it an ideal candidate for study. Scientists hope that by extensively studying and experimenting with one particular species of plant, it can lead to discoveries across the entire family of those plants.
Botanists hope that by studying Medicago truncatula they can learn about the relationships this plant has with bacteria and fungi that live in the soil. The few millimeters of soil directly touching the roots of plants are full of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that trade nutrients with the plant. For example, the plant may give off signals that it has carbon to trade, and a fungi may respond by giving the plant phosphorus in exchange. Understanding what goes on in this few millimeter of soil, the rhizosphere, could help us understand how to produce nutritious food for an ever-growing population.
We were introduced to this species from a request for custom work. Our client’s daughter had been working on her PhD studying this plant. It is a widespread type of clover used as agricultural feed in much of Europe and Africa, and it is studied by botanists worldwide.
The parents wanted to surprise their daughter with a gift after she defended her thesis. We hadn’t seen the plant, it is native to the Mediterranean region, and the request was made in late fall so there was no way we were going to find the plant in bloom for several months. We worked closely with them to find the right photos and approach to making it a unique, wearable piece of art. While we attempted a few carvings, the final version was a 3D printed model that provided both intricacy of design and lightweight, easy functionality.
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