Illuminating Plant Creations
By MG Calla Victoria
Natural lighting is about to take on a whole new meaning if
the scientists at Glowing Plant have their way. They have created
glow-in-the-dark plant material, yes plants that light up when the
sun goes down. So forget the solar garden lights, pathway lights,
and solar flower pots that illuminate your gardens by night, just
plant some glow-in-the-dark plants and save on your utility bills
with glow-in-the-darks plants instead of night lights in the home.
Can you imagine buying a potted glow-in-the-dark Christmas tree,
no more untangling and stringing lights! This is a case of life
definitely imitating art, the ethereal glowing forest featured in the
movie Avatar will be coming to a backyard near you very soon.
Yes fiction has become fact and as Glowing Plant C.E.O.
Anthony Evan says, “We are only limited by our imagination!”
Barely one year old the San Francisco based, Kickstarter funded, company Glowing Plant is propelling botany light-years into the
future. Their team of Stanford-trained Plant science Gurus, using synthetic biology, have combined the DNA of those wonderful light bugs (fireflies), with plants and with luminescent marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri to create bioluminescent or glow-in-the-
The first step in the process was to extract the luminescent DNA from the marine life and fireflies. Then the teams manipulated the DNA via Do-It-Yourself Bio Labs in California. Then they had DNA sequences designed online on a computer using special Biocad software then they made the DNA sequences using DNA laser printing…..What, are you kidding me? Then those newly engineered DNA sequences had to be rewritten so that plant life could interpret them. Finally the DNA genes were introduced to plant material.
The host plant of choice in these amazing experiments is the Arabidopsis thaliana, which is a small flowering plant that is widely used as a model organism in plant biology. Arabidopsis is a self-pollinating herb and member of the mustard (Brassicaceae) family. Arabidopsis offers important advantages for basic research in genetics and molecular biology because of its extensive genetic and physical maps of all 5 chromosomes. Most importantly, Arabidopsis has a very short life cycle about six weeks from germination to seed maturation and because they are self-pollinating many seeds can be harvested very quickly. Glow Plant’s science gurus, using a gene gun filled with high-pressure helium, blast the newly created and rewritten DNA sequences into the small plant cells of the Arabidopsis on a petri dish. The sequence contains luciferase, the light-emitting compound found within fireflies. Only less than 1 percent of the plants accept the genes, but the ones that do mature and start emitting light after two months.
As a Master Gardener I am amazed and in awe of these new agricultural creations. The concept of electricity without electricity but through vegetation is mind boggling. Imagine glowing trees someday lighting up the night creating luminous vistas and saving cities millions by discarding street lights. Most large trees like oaks take years to reach their mature heights, but perhaps the Plant Science gurus will start experimenting with fast-growing trees like angels trumpets, one of my favorites.
Imagination, innovation, and sustainability are the fuel that makes the Glow Plant project a success. The company has raised over $600,000 in pre-orders for these fascinating plant innovations, and yes you better believe my pre-order is in that number. Orders are scheduled to ship late Fall of 2014, while glowing rose plants will ship in the summer of 2015. For further information check out Glowingplant.com
This article appears in the November 1, 2014 print and digital editions of Data News Weekly.
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Remember, never get too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!