If you think the Amazon jungle is completely wild, think again

moriche palm tree
TAMED TREE A new study finds that 20 partly or fully domesticated tree species are far more common than wild tree species in some Amazonian forests. One of those species, the moriche palm (shown) bears an edible fruit with a hard covering.

Welcome to the somewhat civilized jungle. Plant cultivation by native groups has shaped the landscape of at least part of South America’s Amazon forests for more than 8,000 years, researchers say.

Of dozens of tree species partly or fully domesticated by ancient peoples, 20 kinds of fruit and nut trees still cover large chunks of Amazonian forests, say ecologist Carolina Levis of the National Institute for Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil, and colleagues. Numbers and variety of domesticated tree species increase on and around previously discovered Amazonian archaeological sites, the scientists report in the March 3 Science.

Domesticated trees are “a surviving heritage of the Amazon’s past inhabitants,” Levis says.

The new report, says archaeologist Peter Stahl of the University of Victoria in Canada, adds to previous evidence that “resourceful and highly developed indigenous cultures” intentionally altered some Amazonian forests.

Southwestern and eastern Amazonian forests contain the greatest numbers and diversity of domesticated tree species, Levis’ team found. Large stands of…

Secrets of Florists

Florists know all about caring for and arranging a variety of flowers, but they do more than put pretty flowers into a nice vase. After talking to a few, we got the dirt on the job, including how they find the best blooms, which household fruits are the enemy of long-lasting bouquets, and why the holidays make their feet ache.


Being a florist means getting to work early, as the team at Miami Gardens Florist tells mental_floss: “You have to be in by 7 a.m. so that the first batch of flowers is ready for delivery by 9 a.m., when most businesses start to open.” Florists use those early morning hours to cut and process flowers, organize orders that came in overnight, and prioritize which arrangements to work on first. And when they buy flowers at wholesale flower markets, some florists wake up even earlier—around 3 or 4 a.m.—to find the best flowers at the market before they sell out.


To assemble complex floral arrangements and mixed bouquets, florists typically need to search for flowers and plants from a variety of sources. Depending on their clients’ wishes and what flowers are in season, florists may purchase directly from local farms, wholesalers, or flower auctions. Some florists even grow their own flowers or import them from countries such as Holland or Colombia.


“Being a florist is a lot more labor-intensive than most would assume,” says Lauren Ghani, the owner of Nu Leaf Design, a floral design shop in Los Angeles. “We have to pick up and transport all the flowers, clean and process them (which can take hours of being on your feet!), decide on a design, and then clean up the extensive amount of leaves and debris,” Ghani explains. Florists must also have strong arm and leg muscles to unpack large shipments of plants, lift heavy buckets of water, and arrange large branches and other foliage for display.


Because flowers only last so long before they wilt and die, florists are in a perpetual race against the clock. They must properly time purchases and deliveries, making sure that buds have bloomed by the time they arrive at a client’s door. To speed up or slow down the blooming process, florists use a variety of tricks. They may condition flowers (get them ready for display) by cutting or splitting the stems (trimming them at a 45-degree angle increases the surface area for water absorption) or dunking the blooms in cold water. Storing the blooms away from direct sunlight is also key. To ensure that flowers for weddings look fresh and open, Ghani keeps them in a refrigerated environment and makes the centerpieces the day before the event.


Because flowers are perishable, florists can’t get too much of a head start on making arrangements for high-volume days such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. “During our high seasons, every flower shop becomes a factory where all we’re doing is trying to get as many arrangements out as possible,” the Miami Gardens Florist team explains. Although most florists find working with flowers to be generally relaxing, holidays require them to stand on their feet for eight to 12 hours per day, often for several days in a row.

If flowers are…

World’s Oldest Person Turns 117. What’s Her Secret?

“My word, I’m as old as the hills.”

Back in May, that was 116-year-old Emma Morano’s response to learning that the Guinness World Record for World’s Oldest Living Person had been passed on to her following the death of previous record-holder, Susannah Mushatt Jones. Today, Morano—the last living person who was born in the 19th century—is celebrating yet another milestone: her 117th birthday.

While other centenarians have attributed their longevity to everything from exercise to lack of exercise, Morano’s secret to a long life is pretty straightforward: two raw eggs a day. Morano, who was born in the village of Civiasco in northern Italy on November 29, 1899,…