Science Says

The secret light of plants

Welcome to the groovy world of glow-in-the-dark plants. They’re not much more than a novelty now, but a company called Bioglow has been developing plants that produce their own ambient light since 2007. It’s the result of genetic engineering (with the expected protests); the transplanted genes create auto-luminescent Nicotiana alata (ornamental tobacco) that emit a quiet blue-green glow throughout their 2-3 month life cycle. The cultivar is named Starlight Avatar, recalling the glowing plant life that populated the film Avatar. The plants must be kept inside at houseplant temps and light exposures.  Here’s more on the science.

Bioglow (their site seemed down when I posted this) finally has 20 plants ready to be auctioned off at the end of this month and wants to roll out thousands more in the summer. And apparently, this is more than a ridiculous fad. The company’s ultimate goal is to produce shrubs and trees that will light up sidewalks and roads, reducing the need for fossil fueled outdoor lighting.

Nicotiana is a plant I grow every summer, usually the tall species varieties, not these stubby ones. If they had more stature and were available for garden use, I might try them.

Posted by on January 27, 2014 at 6:28 am, in the category Science Says.
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5 responses to “The secret light of plants”

  1. I’m imagining just a few Nicotiana sylvestris (or even one) glowing in a small urban garden. Might be pretty.

  2. This would be one interesting way to make sure house guests can find the bathroom in the night. Instead of night lights, you can use glowing plants!

  3. Laura Bell says:

    Would be really cool. And a little creepy.

  4. skr says:

    Depending on the cost, I’ll buy some. Those will be fun in the entryway.

  5. Kaveh says:

    The day one of my clients tells me that they want a garden of glow-in-the-dark plants is the day I hang up my garden designer hat.