The Secret Life of Plants

Take a peek inside Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's national vascular plant herbarium. We have the largest plant collection in Canada and about 20 % of the known plant species in the world.

Consult the profile of the Manager, National Vascular Plant Herbarium, Gisèle Mitrow.

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Video Transcript

[Fade up from black.]

[Retro-sounding electronic background music.]

[Canada wordmark and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada signature. The title of the video appears on screen.]

Text on screen: The Secret Life of Plants

[Fade up to cumulus clouds against a blue sky.]

Female narrator:
Along with water and air, plants are one of the most important aspects of life on earth...

[Cross fade to a wheat plant.]

[Cross fade to a jar containing celery seed, labeled Celery Seed, Apium Graveoloss.]

[Cross fade to a jar containing water mint, labeled Water Mint, Menta aquatic L.]

[Cross fade to a jar containing plant leaves.]

[Cross fade to a large filing system, cross fade to an older brick building, cross fade to a researcher (in a lab coat) looking through a microscope, cross fade to slides containing plant specimens and cross fade to a researcher (in a lab coat) working at a computer.]

...and at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre in Ottawa it is their job to know everything they can about plants.

[Cut to an interview shot of Gisèle Mitrow.]

Text on screen: Gisèle Mitrow, Collections Manager, DAO Herbarium and National Vascular Plant Identification Service

Gisèle Mitrow:
You know what? The average person sees hundreds of vascular plants every day but don't even think about it but it’s my job to keep track of them.

[Fade from jarred seed specimens on shelves to Gisèle Mitrow in a lab coat studying specimens through a microscope.]

Female narrator:
Just like humans, plants have a vascular system. That allows them to get nutrients and water through their system. It includes plants like trees, grasses or weeds.

[Fade to shelves of jarred specimens.]

Text on screen: Herbaceous plant identifications

[Jarred specimens fade into a grass specimen on a sheet of paper.]

90% of green vegetative plants are vascular plants.

[The sheet of paper fades into a shot of Gisele Mitrow working at her desk. The desk and Mitrow can be seen at the end of an aisle surrounded by shelving. The shelves contain numerous files.]

Classifying all of these plants keeps Gisèle Mitrow, the herbarium Collections Manager, busy.

[Cross-fade to a Mitrow, carrying a thick, orange folder, walking through doors leading to the Vascular Plant Herbarium.]

Text on Screen: Vascular Plant Herbarium

Gisèle Mitrow:
An herbarium can be compared to a library. It contains numerous information on...

[Fade to a large filing system containing numerous files. Mitrow can be seen studying the contents of a particular file.]

...these vascular plants and in this herbarium we have over 1.5 million plants specimens and we have all the plants here that occur across Canada.

[Cut to an interview shot of Gisèle Mitrow.]

It represents 20% of the species in the world. These are all dried, pressed and mounted on light cardboard sheets...

[Cut to Mitrow and a colleague (both in lab coats) mounting a specimen to a cardboard sheet.]

...and then filed into our compactor system which is movable.

[Cut to Mitrow walking to a large filing system. Cut to a close up of green and red buttons that start or stop the shelves.]

[Cut to large shelving unit with numerous files.]

These plants are filed by families and geographically.

[Cut to an interview shot of Gisèle Mitrow.]

One of our major roles is to assist Canadian agriculture.

[Cut to male researcher (in a lab coat) working in a lab. There are numerous specimen bottles, petri dishes and specimen bags at his station.]

Female narrator:
The plant collection helps enhance and protect the safety of the Canadian food supply.

[Cross fade to potted weeds in a lab.]

One of the biggest threats to Canadian agriculture has always been weeds...

[Cross fade to a lab technician studying specimens through a microscope.]

...and with this collection scientists are able to easily find information on these weeds. By doing this they can determine what bio control methods can be used to eliminate the weeds...

[Cross fade to a lab technician studying specimens using lab equipment.]

...which also reduces the use of herbicides in our environment.

[Cut to an interview shot of Gisèle Mitrow.]

Gisèle Mitrow:
In the global economy we have plants crossing the border every day...

[Cut to Mitrow selecting a book from a large shelving unit.]

...and we are here to assist in identifying some of these potential weeds that might enter at the border...

[Cut to Mitrow reading that book at a desk.]

...and we want to prevent these evasive, alien species from getting into our crops and our environment and our fields.

[Cross fade to a shot of various hardcover books on shelving.]

Female narrator:
The information here collected over 150 years is more important than ever...

[Cross-fade to Mitrow (in a lab coat) retrieving and studying cardboard sheets (with plants mounted on them).]

...and is used by an increasing number of clients including ecologists, colleges and universities, economists and staff of government departments.

[Cross fade to large shelving unit. Time-lapse photography depicts various lab workers entering and exiting the shelving unit.]

Every year hundreds of visitors view the collection, there are hundreds of requests for services and the centre loans out thousands of specimens to plant researchers worldwide.

[Cut to an interview shot of Gisèle Mitrow.]

Gisèle Mitrow:
I feel I am contributing to Canada by assisting research scientists here at Agriculture Canada and as collection manager of the collection and I feel I am making Canada a better place to live.

[Fade to black.]

[Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada signature]

Text on screen: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Text on screen: © Her Majesty the Queen in the Right of Canada, as represented by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2010.

[Canada wordmark]

[Fade to black.]

[Retro-sounding electronic background music fades out.]

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