File photo: Using cutting edge technology, they were able to introduce genes to the host plant to help make the substance. Picture: HippoPx
File photo: Using cutting edge technology, they were able to introduce genes to the host plant to help make the substance. Picture: HippoPx

Genetic breakthrough could lead to fantastical ‘night gardens’

By COLIN FERNANDEZ Time of article published Apr 28, 2020

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London - The saying "roses are red and violets are blue" needs an update – as scientists have managed to make plants glow a luminous green in the dark.

By implanting genes from fungi that glow in the dark into other plants, researchers are on the way to developing a host of bioluminescent flora.

So far, experts have only tested the mushroom genes in tobacco plants. But the results could now pave the way for other luminous foliage that might provide an after-dark wow factor in a suburban "night garden".

Researchers said they had demonstrated "feasibility" for glowing plants including periwinkle, petunia, and roses, pictured – which could also give the traditional bunch on Valentine’s Day a whole new twist. While unknown in nature, the science fantasy film Avatar evoked an imaginary world of lush bioluminescent jungles.

In their tests on tobacco, scientists used mushrooms that glow due to a light-producing chemical called luciferin. Using cutting edge technology, they were able to introduce genes to the host plant to help make the substance.

The research, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, said the technique is not just a novelty for gardeners – as the light can also help scientists observe the inner workings of plants. Flickering patterns or waves of light are visible – revealing inner activity not normally seen. 

The report was authored by scientists, including researchers from London’s Medical Research Centre. The authors said plants might one day change "brightness or colour in response to people and surroundings". 

"And while replacing street lights with glowing trees may prove fantastical, the plants produce a pleasant green aura that emanates from their living energy," they added.

Previous attempts to create luminous plants used DNA from glowing insects such as fireflies that only worked for a short period and needed chemical additives to grow.

Daily Mail

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