Uncovering the secrets of plants
In many people’s eyes, plants are quiet and passive. They can’t talk. They can’t walk. And they can’t think like us.
Or can they? A new BBC documentary series, The Green Planet, gives us a new look at plants. Released on Jan 10 on Bilibili, it uncovers the wonderful and dramatic ways that plants behave.
“The Green Planet reveals the secret lives of plants in the same way The Blue Planet opened our eyes to the oceans,” editor Elle Hunt wrote in New Scientist.
Plants compete against each other to live. Each species has its own ways of defense. In tropical rainforests, different kinds of plants race for sunlight. The forest floor is described as a “battlefield” in the series as only two percent of the sunlight filters through it. Some plants like Monstera spread their big leaves to reach light. But they are caught up in a vine that tries to hitch a ride. Finally, they are both overtaken by a fast-growing balsa tree. As the balsa has slippery hairs on its leaves, the vine can’t get a hold. Similarly, some trees make poisonous sap to protect themselves.
Plants also help each other and even communicate. In deserts, the roots of Euphrates poplar are connected. If a tree finds water, it will share it with others through the roots. Studies also show that plants use fungus in the soil as a way to “talk” to each other. It’s kind of like how Wi-Fi works. If a tomato plant gets a leaf disease, it can tell nearby plants about it.
The series not only lets us marvel at the plant world but pushes us to understand that plants are important. “Plants are the basis of all life, including ourselves. We depend upon them for every mouth of food that we eat and every lungful of air that we breathe,” said David Attenborough, presenter of the series. It’s time to look after wild plants just as carefully as our houseplants.