Plants Life


Plants

The nature series turns to plants and looks at the ingenious solutions that they employ to counter life's challenges, such as spring-loaded traps, suckers and claws.


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Transcript


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Plants have a family tree stretching back nearly half a billion years.

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They have developed an extraordinary range of strategies to survive.

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This tree is a bristlecone pine.

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It's taken thousands of years to reach this size.

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It has seen empires rise and fall,

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kings, queens and presidents come and go

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and may have seen the sun rise more than 1.5 million times.

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Bristlecone pines are the oldest living things on Earth.

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Bamboo is the fastest growing plant.

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It will be full-grown - 30 metres tall - in just 90 days.

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Like animals, plants are constantly competing for food.

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Striving to produce offspring

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and battling against predators.

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They will deceive and, in some cases,

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they will even hunt.

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We often don't notice such dramatic behaviour because, to our eyes, it happens so slowly.

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But if time is compressed

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and you shift perspective to the plants' point of view,

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their world comes spectacularly to life.

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The events in this woodland

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can build to a view of half a year in less than a minute.

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Like animals, plants need food and water.

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But what sets them apart is their struggle for light.

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Plants must have light in order to grow and will do anything to get as much as they need.

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The forest might appear to be the perfect place for plants to thrive.

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Yet down here on the forest floor

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is one of the hardest places imaginable

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for a young plant to begin its life.

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The canopy above is so thick

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that only a little sunlight can filter through.

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For this sapling, too little light means death.

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But plants on the forest floor need not be passive.

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If the light won't come to them,

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they can go to the light.

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But they still have a problem.

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The light is 50 metres above them.

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So, they must climb.

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It's much easier to use another plant as scaffolding.

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But they won't get very high unless they can hold on tight.

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Like fingertips searching for a hold,

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this ivy's adhesive pads grip the bark.

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Instead of sticking to the trees, some climbers use sharp claws.

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The cat's claw creeper hooks its tendrils into the tiniest crevices

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and hauls itself to the top.

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With every metre it climbs,

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the light gets a little stronger, fuelling more growth.

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This tendril of a passion flower seems to flail aimlessly in mid-air,

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but in fact it's searching for an anchor point.

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Its tendril coils on itself, pulling the plant towards its support.

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In a matter of just days, these climbers make it to the canopy.

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Now with light in plentiful supply, these plants are able to flower.

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Other plants have a different strategy

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to find the light they need in the crowded forest.

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These are air-plants.

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They grow on the upper branches of tall trees

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and spend their whole lives basking in the light.

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But growing 50 metres above the ground does have its drawbacks.

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Most plants get water and nutrients through their roots in the ground.

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For an air-plant, with their roots planted in the tree tops,

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this isn't an option.

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But they have a solution.

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First, the bare roots have an extraordinary ability to soak up water like blotting paper.

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The slightest rain or mist, and they absorb every drop.

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They also have a way of gathering nutrients.

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Their roots trap falling leaves which eventually rot

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and provide the plants with their own personal supply of compost.

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20,000 different plants -

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orchids, bromeliads and ferns have taken up this remarkable lifestyle.

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For a plant to thrive, it must not only get enough nutrients,

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but also the right balance of nutrients.

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The soil in this waterlogged bog is very poor quality, lacking in nitrogen.

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But these strange plants have an ingenious strategy.

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Their leaves are covered in tentacles, tipped with droplets of what appears to be morning dew.

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These droplets give the plant its name - the sundew.

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They're sweet-smelling and attractive to many insects.

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But they're also extremely sticky.

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Mosquitoes emerge in huge numbers from the boggy water

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and the sundews are ready.

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The sundew's tentacles are living fly-paper.

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Struggling only makes matters worse.

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With each contact, the plant tightens its grip.

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As more and more tentacles envelop the prey,

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the droplets spread across its body.

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Eventually, the insect is smothered and drowns in sticky fluid.

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Digestive enzymes break down the body into a nitrogen-rich meal

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which is absorbed by the plant.

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Without animal tissues, this plant would not survive.

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But there's another carnivorous plant

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that's an even more sophisticated predator.

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The Venus fly trap.

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Like the sundew, it makes itself very attractive,

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oozing nectar across the brim of each leaf.

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But any visiting insect had better watch out for these six tiny hairs.

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This fly has to tread carefully.

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If it strikes one hair,

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it can carry on feeding.

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But a timer has been set.

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A second strike in less than 20 seconds and the fly is doomed.

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An electrical impulse is triggered and the leaf snaps shut in just a fraction of a second.

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The tips lock together like prison bars.

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If the fly is very big, or very small, it may just manage to escape.

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But most are trapped.

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And die.

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Ten days later, the trap re-opens.

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All that remains is a husk.

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The plant has finished its meal and resets itself for its next victim.

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But there is one time of year when the Venus fly trap

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needs some of the visiting insects to live.

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It needs their help to be pollinated.

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It sends up flowers on tall stems,

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well away from the danger of the traps below.

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Here, insects can feed safely on nectar.

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In return, they provide a vital service,

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carrying pollen from flower to flower.

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But the truce is only temporary.

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When pollination is over, it's back to business as usual.

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80% of plant species on Earth have flowers.

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Flowers have just one role -

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to enable the plant to produce offspring.

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Colour, perfume, nectar and shape

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all act to make a flower irresistible.

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Sunflowers grow to face the rising sun.

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The warmth of the rays speeds the production of nectar

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and this lures pollinators.

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One after another,

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hundreds of individual florets produce pollen-covered stamens.

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And, like most flowers,

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sunflowers establish a close relationship with animals

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in order to ensure their reproduction.

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As these bees busily feed on nectar,

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they unwittingly brush against the stamens, collecting pollen,

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and then carry it from flower to flower.

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The sunflower is fertilised.

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In the sun-drenched fields of southern France,

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the flowering season is a long one,

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but not all plants have this luxury.

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Cradle Mountain in Tasmania is blasted by bitter Antarctic winds.

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To reproduce, the Richea honey bush must flower.

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But the delicate parts of the flowers risk being damaged by the cold.

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The plant appears to have an ingenious solution.

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The flower petals fuse together,

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forming an insulated, protective case around its stamens.

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However, this creates another problem,

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the flower case is so well sealed that, unfortunately,

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it also keeps out pollinating insects.

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During brief, sunny spells,

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the flowers warm up and suddenly start producing nectar.

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This attracts a bird - the Black Currawong.

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It has the strength to rip open the flowers' outer casing

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and gets its reward of nectar.

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At the same time, it exposes the delicate stamens to waiting insects.

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With luck, there's enough time for pollination

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before the biting wind kills the flowers.

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For some plants, the relationship with their pollinators

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is not collaborative,

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it's war.

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Butterflies, and in such numbers,

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would seem to be perfect pollinators for any flower.

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The Sandhill milkweed blooms every spring

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in the sandy meadows of Florida.

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It times its flowering perfectly to match the arrival

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of Monarch butterflies migrating here from Mexico.

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The Monarchs search out milkweed plants,

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but they have something other than pollination on their minds.

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Rather than collect pollen,

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this female lays her eggs on the milkweed leaf.

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This is the only plant the caterpillars can eat.

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But the milkweed has a defence mechanism.

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As the caterpillar bites into a vein,

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a kind of latex swells out engulfing it.

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If the caterpillar isn't quick, it will drown...

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or find its jaws glued together.

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The plants' defence is so effective

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that only one third of the Monarch caterpillars

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make it through the first day.

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But the caterpillars that survive, grow in size and strength.

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And they go for the jugular.

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By carefully chewing through the main vein,

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the caterpillar drains the leaf of latex

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and cuts off its supply.

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The milkweed's leaf is now defenceless

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and the caterpillar eats in safety

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before preparing to pupate into a butterfly.

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But after about ten days,

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it becomes clear why the plant has endured this onslaught.

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A newly-hatched Monarch simply can't resist the nectar-filled cups

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of the milkweed flowers.

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As it moves across the flower heads,

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its feet slide between grooves in the petals

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where the flower's pollen sacs are waiting.

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As it flies off, the Monarch's feet hook out the pollen

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and carry it to the next flower and pollination is achieved.

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Although the milkweed has paid a heavy price,

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in the end it used the Monarch to get its way.

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Here in Dominica there's a plant that is so manipulative

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that it has enslaved its pollinator.

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The bright red structures of the Heliconia are actually modified leaves.

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These are its flowers.

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They may be small, but they play a very important role

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keeping nectar well guarded at the very bottom of their long stems.

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The purple-throated Carib hummingbird,

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with its long curved beak,

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is the only bird capable of reaching this energy-rich food.

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But, cleverly, the Heliconia rations the amount of nectar it produces

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to force the hummingbird into returning to the flower

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time and time again.

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Every time it makes a visit,

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it picks up more pollen on its beak and feathers.

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The hummingbird is like an addict.

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Not only does it never stray,

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but it will aggressively defend the flowers from thieves.

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The plant is the master in this relationship.

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To ensure it gets pollinated,

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Heliconia has made the hummingbird its prisoner.

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A plant's problems don't end once it's been pollinated.

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Plants need to spread their seeds as far away as possible,

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otherwise the adults will be in direct competition with their offspring.

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Here in South Africa, one flower achieves this

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by performing a remarkable trick.

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The plant waits dormant underground for more than a year.

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The first heavy rains for many months

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are the trigger the plant has been waiting for.

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Brunsvigia burst into flower.

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Their timing is perfect.

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These conditions are ideal for insects too.

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The flowers enjoy a few days of frenzied pollination.

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But it's not long before the searing heat returns.

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The flowers start to wilt, shrivel and die.

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Brunsvigia now needs to disperse its seeds widely,

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yet the flowers still have their seeds trapped inside.

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But the flower isn't finished yet.

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There are strong winds that blow across this landscape.

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They snap the dry, dead stalks, sending each and every plant

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cart-wheeling across the ground, casting seeds as it goes.

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With the heat threatening to dry them out,

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the seeds' germination has to be immediate.

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Deep in the forests of Borneo,

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some plants also use the wind to disperse their seeds,

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but in a completely different way - by giving their seeds wings.

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Some are helicopters that twist and turn their way down to the ground.

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But there is one that has a design

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that enables it to travel greater distances than all the others.

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This is Alsomitra.

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Its football-sized pod

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is packed full of hundreds of extraordinary seeds.

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Each is an almost aerodynamically perfect glider

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that can be supported by even the slightest breeze.

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Its paper-thin upswept wings

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allow it to travel hundreds of metres through the forest.

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Once the seed hits the ground,

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the wings rot away and the seed starts to germinate.

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A new Alsomitra vine starts to grow up towards the canopy

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and into the light - well away from its parent.

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There are other ways to disperse seeds

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and plants have evolved different tactics

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depending on where they live.

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In the desert of Arizona lives a master - the Saguaro cactus.

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In the cool of the night, the cacti open their radiant flowers.

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They're soon visited by nectar-feeding bats

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and as the bats move from cactus to cactus,

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they pollinate them.

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Each flower only lasts a night,

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but over three weeks, each cactus will produce more than 200 flowers.

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Every pollinated flower immediately begins to form a fruit at its base,

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packed with thousands of seeds.

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The mature Saguaro cacti are superbly adapted

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to survive out in the intense heat of the Sonoran Desert.

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But their seeds are delicate, and must find shade or they will scorch to death before they germinate.

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The seeds are covered with succulent sweet flesh -

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a meal that all sorts of desert creatures find irresistible.

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White winged doves are among the first to reach the ripening fruit.

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The seeds survive in the birds' stomachs

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and will be carried many miles

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before being deposited in their droppings.

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Their own little packet of fertiliser.

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But the cactus doesn't just rely on birds.

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Fallen fruit provides a bonanza for creatures on the ground.

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Foraging ants quickly gather seeds and flesh.

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That's if a tortoise doesn't get there first.

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The greater range of animals the cactus can get to eat its fruit,

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the more likely the seeds within will be carried to the perfect place to germinate.

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The ants carry the seeds underground into their nests,

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often excavated among the roots of trees.

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The tortoise too will head for shade.

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It spends much of its day cooling off under trees

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where it's sure to leave undigested seeds in its dung.

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Now the seeds wait for the rains to come.

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THUNDER

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Of the 40 million or so seeds a cactus produces in its lifetime,

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the chances are that only one will develop into a plant

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that outlives its parent.

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If it was lucky enough to find shade,

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a seed will still take ten years

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to become a five centimetre tall cactus.

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To reach the size of its parents, possibly ten metres,

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will take at least 100 years.

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Plants can survive in the most unlikely and inhospitable places on Earth.

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Here on Socotra, a remote island in the Arabian Sea,

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the dry season is brutal.

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But this strange tree has a strategy to survive it.

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The Dragon's Blood tree.

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The key to their success lies in their bizarre shape.

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They live on the mountain tops where there's little soil,

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but there are critical compensations.

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Occasional morning mists sweep across the high ground.

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The mist condenses on the skyward-pointing waxy leaves.

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The droplets run down to the centre of the trunk and down to its roots.

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Water is so precious that the tree cannot afford to waste any.

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Drops that do escape and fall to the ground are not totally lost.

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The tree's huge, densely packed crown acts as a parasol.

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It shades the ground so effectively it allows time for the water to seep into the sand.

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And it also shades the network of roots

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that lie just under the surface.

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Another plant shares this parched desert,

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but survives in a very different way.

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The Desert Rose.

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In really harsh conditions,

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it jettisons its leaves to minimise water loss.

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Strangely, it chooses this time to flower.

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Its bulbous trunk is like a barrel that stores water all year round.

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It's so hardy it can grow out of bare rock.

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It might seem that conditions can't get much tougher

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for a plant than here.

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But, for some, the conditions are even harsher.

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Six hours ago, here on the coast of Australia,

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this tree was high and dry on a sandy beach.

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For almost all plants, saltwater is lethal,

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so submersion of this tree's roots by the tide twice a day

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should kill it.

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Yet this Red Mangrove is flourishing.

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The retreating tide reveals the key to surviving the sea's assault.

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The mangrove's roots are covered in warty growths.

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The growths surround pores that take in oxygen from the air

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when the roots are above water.

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But the pores become useful in a quite different way when they're submerged again.

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They allow water into the plant,

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but filter out 99% of the salt as it passes through.

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Any salt that gets in is pumped into a few sacrificial leaves that turn yellow and are discarded.

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Plants can not only cope with being poisoned, parched and scorched,

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but they can also survive being frozen.

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In the world's northern forests,

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the changing of the seasons creates its own challenges.

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As summer moves to autumn,

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plants prepare themselves for the toughest time of their year.

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Broad-leaved trees unveil what seems to us a colourful spectacle.

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But for these plants it is the beginning of a series of urgent and drastic survival strategies

0:38:360:38:43

to cope with the coming cold.

0:38:430:38:45

They begin by pulling all the water and nutrients within their leaves back into the trunk.

0:38:460:38:52

The last rays of useful sunlight are channelled

0:38:540:38:58

into making a sugary anti-freeze

0:38:580:39:00

that will protect the body of the tree.

0:39:000:39:03

The green pigment - chlorophyll -

0:39:060:39:09

disappears, leaving purples, reds, oranges and yellows.

0:39:090:39:14

Finally, the leaves die and the trees discard them.

0:39:140:39:18

As temperatures drop below freezing,

0:39:270:39:30

the plants of broad-leaved forests settle down

0:39:300:39:33

to hibernate until spring.

0:39:330:39:34

Pine trees can survive much colder conditions.

0:39:480:39:53

They have anti-freeze in the leaves themselves,

0:39:550:39:58

that means they can keep them all winter.

0:39:580:40:01

The needle-like leaves also have a thick waxy coating

0:40:030:40:06

that limits any water loss through pores.

0:40:060:40:09

The winters here are long and hard.

0:40:110:40:14

The trees have to survive temperatures of down to -40C for five months.

0:40:160:40:23

But one pine tree is capable of surviving even harsher conditions.

0:41:100:41:16

These pines live at the limit of life -

0:41:200:41:23

above 3,000 metres in the mountains of western America.

0:41:230:41:28

Almost continuous freezing temperatures and savage winds

0:41:290:41:34

make life so tough that these bristle cones

0:41:340:41:37

only manage to grow for six weeks of the year.

0:41:370:41:40

Everything is about conserving energy.

0:41:430:41:46

They hardly ever shed their needles, which can last more than 30 years.

0:41:460:41:52

After centuries of being blasted by storms,

0:41:520:41:56

a full-grown tree still survives

0:41:560:41:59

with only a strip of bark a few inches wide.

0:41:590:42:02

These trees live life at such a slow pace that they can reach great age.

0:42:070:42:12

Some are over 5,000 years old.

0:42:120:42:15

It's been said of the bristlecones,

0:42:190:42:21

that to live here is to take a very long time to die.

0:42:210:42:25

As the northern spring approaches,

0:42:340:42:36

the warming temperatures and increased day length

0:42:360:42:39

release the land from winter.

0:42:390:42:41

Plants that have lain dormant begin to grow again.

0:42:470:42:51

These have over-wintered,

0:42:580:43:00

buried in the mud at the bottom of this frozen lake.

0:43:000:43:03

The retreating ice allows the water to warm

0:43:130:43:16

and this white water lily to flourish for another season.

0:43:160:43:20

And, as all the trees come out of their winter rest,

0:43:360:43:40

the vivid green of new leaves returns to the land.

0:43:400:43:43

From the frozen north to the southern deserts,

0:44:050:44:09

the spring bloom symbolises the success of plants

0:44:090:44:12

in surviving against the odds.

0:44:120:44:15

But the most successful type of flowering plant

0:44:410:44:44

is one that makes up 20% of all plant life on the planet.

0:44:440:44:49

Grass.

0:44:510:44:52

There are 10,000 different species.

0:44:540:44:57

Today, they form the diet of many thousands of different animals.

0:45:020:45:07

And a few grasses, particularly rich in nutrients,

0:45:120:45:15

have developed a relationship with one animal

0:45:150:45:19

and together, the two have changed the world.

0:45:190:45:22

10,000 years ago, we humans started to cultivate rice

0:45:330:45:37

in order to harvest its food-rich seeds.

0:45:370:45:41

Now, half of the world's population depends on it.

0:45:480:45:52

But there is one other grass that has spread

0:46:010:46:04

even further across the planet

0:46:040:46:07

due to its relationship with humans...

0:46:070:46:10

wheat.

0:46:100:46:11

It underpinned the development of western civilisation.

0:46:160:46:20

Today, it covers more of the land than any other kind of plant.

0:46:300:46:35

Plants have been residents on land longer than animals

0:46:420:46:46

and have had nearly half a billion years to evolve.

0:46:460:46:49

During that time, they've diversified into countless forms

0:46:530:46:57

and have colonised every habitat.

0:46:570:46:59

As well as collaborating with animals,

0:47:090:47:12

plants are sometimes their masters,

0:47:120:47:14

exploiting them to their own advantage.

0:47:140:47:17

Plants capture energy from the sun

0:47:290:47:32

and all life on land, directly or indirectly, depends on them.

0:47:320:47:37

So, ultimately, plants fuel the diversity of life on Earth.

0:47:370:47:43

To see the behaviour of plants as they struggle to survive

0:47:540:47:58

presented a unique challenge.

0:47:580:48:00

The plants team had to employ many techniques,

0:48:070:48:09

including time-lapse and high-speed photography.

0:48:090:48:13

They filmed in jungles, deserts, swamps and plains,

0:48:170:48:20

but they also spent many hours shooting in a converted barn

0:48:200:48:25

just outside Exeter.

0:48:250:48:26

All under the watchful eye

0:48:380:48:40

of green-fingered cameraman, Tim Shepherd.

0:48:400:48:44

Filming plants in time-lapse takes so long

0:48:470:48:50

and is so susceptible to changes in light levels and weather conditions

0:48:500:48:54

that some key sequences had to be filmed in this studio.

0:48:540:48:58

In time-lapse, a camera takes a series of pictures

0:49:040:49:07

over an extended period of time,

0:49:070:49:10

so, when played back, the action appears speeded up.

0:49:100:49:14

These sunflowers actually take three days to open,

0:49:140:49:18

but are seen opening in a matter of seconds.

0:49:180:49:21

The most complex time-lapse the team attempted

0:49:270:49:30

showed an entire growing season

0:49:300:49:32

in an English woodland in one continuous shot.

0:49:320:49:35

A shot that took two years to create.

0:49:350:49:38

I think this is going to be the spot.

0:49:460:49:48

As the producer, Neil Lucas

0:49:500:49:52

leads Tim and Mick Connaire, the graphic designer,

0:49:520:49:55

out to the location,

0:49:550:49:57

he explains his idea.

0:49:570:49:59

-Well, this is one that I thought...

-That's a lovely rock.

-Just here.

0:49:590:50:02

And I think that'd be great to have the brambles growing along.

0:50:020:50:06

It will be a tracking shot through the wood with plants growing,

0:50:060:50:10

flowers blooming and the woodland coming to life

0:50:100:50:13

over the course of a year.

0:50:130:50:15

We're condensing one year down into less than a minute.

0:50:150:50:18

We have to have them all coming out at the same time, multiple passes.

0:50:180:50:22

How long does a foxglove take to grow?

0:50:220:50:25

Well, if we start just before the buds are about to open

0:50:250:50:28

and you've got the whole long spike,

0:50:280:50:30

then top to bottom that's probably about three weeks.

0:50:300:50:33

So, even if you wanted to, you couldn't shoot the plants here

0:50:330:50:36

because, three weeks, the weather's going to change,

0:50:360:50:39

you've got the day-night and also just leaving the equipment here running, it's not feasible, is it?

0:50:390:50:44

You just have to imagine the changes that would happen here in three weeks

0:50:440:50:48

and if that was all joined together

0:50:480:50:50

and one frame the plant might be there

0:50:500:50:52

and you take a shot of it an hour later and, if the wind's blowing,

0:50:520:50:55

it's over here somewhere and then you join those two shots together...

0:50:550:50:59

It just won't work. So what we've got to do is not only have we got to produce a move

0:50:590:51:04

that is exactly the same repeatable move,

0:51:040:51:07

a track that can be built exactly the same again in a studio.

0:51:070:51:10

Build exact models of every object in here

0:51:100:51:12

so we can put plants in the right places and then time everything,

0:51:120:51:16

-so they grow just as the camera happens to be pointing at them.

-Yes.

-OK.

0:51:160:51:20

The scale of the challenge is dawning on them.

0:51:200:51:23

Months of planning lie ahead.

0:51:230:51:25

The following spring, the team head back to the wood.

0:51:290:51:32

With no road access,

0:51:320:51:33

manpower is the only way to get the tonnes of equipment into position.

0:51:330:51:38

Everyone's wondering how this will turn out, including the locals.

0:51:450:51:50

-Go up about an inch.

-Straight now.

0:51:590:52:01

Start like that.

0:52:040:52:05

Position now is 221556.

0:52:110:52:13

We've done it wrong.

0:52:160:52:18

That's pulled it. Hang on - that's pulled it terribly.

0:52:250:52:28

BLEEP!

0:52:300:52:32

-Did that snap?

-No, it's pulled this wheel round.

0:52:330:52:37

Two days of building, levelling, test runs

0:52:400:52:44

and even a few minor disasters

0:52:440:52:46

and finally the track is ready to run.

0:52:460:52:49

OK, that's pretty close.

0:52:490:52:52

If you move your... Can you see that little bit of lichen? Go to 8,900.

0:52:520:52:59

Accuracy is paramount.

0:53:010:53:03

Yeah, whatever we shoot in the studio,

0:53:040:53:06

it's got to match this landscape exactly,

0:53:060:53:09

so unless we know precisely where everything is

0:53:090:53:11

relative to the camera,

0:53:110:53:13

there's no way of placing the plants in the studio in the right place.

0:53:130:53:17

So we have to measure the hell out of it.

0:53:170:53:19

Oh, bloody hell, it's spot on. Look at that.

0:53:190:53:22

-So 250.

-OK.

0:53:220:53:26

Shot by shot and step by step,

0:53:330:53:35

the camera inches its way back up the 30 metre track.

0:53:350:53:39

Well, that's working.

0:53:390:53:41

This is only the background shot.

0:53:450:53:47

There is still a huge amount of other filming to be done.

0:53:470:53:50

The track has to be rebuilt exactly as it is on location

0:53:530:53:57

back in the studio - a task that will take weeks to get right.

0:53:570:54:01

Right in front of the tree at the end of the rock.

0:54:180:54:22

Using the detailed measurements taken in the wood,

0:54:250:54:27

the position size and shape of every structure

0:54:270:54:31

has to be matched precisely.

0:54:310:54:32

-35.

-35, yeah.

0:54:360:54:39

The slightest discrepancy will put the team back to square one.

0:54:420:54:48

Chicken-wire and polystyrene form the rocks and trees of the woodland.

0:54:480:54:54

Blue screen is used to cover every inch of the set

0:54:540:54:58

to allow the original shot to be mapped on later in graphics.

0:54:580:55:03

Once built, and with the plants placed in their exact locations,

0:55:030:55:06

filming can start.

0:55:060:55:07

The stars of the show finally make an appearance.

0:55:090:55:12

Timing is everything.

0:55:320:55:33

With each plant taking up to three weeks to flower

0:55:330:55:36

there's only one chance of getting it right.

0:55:360:55:39

A year later and thankfully so far all had gone to plan.

0:56:030:56:08

The final stage is to bring all the pieces together seamlessly -

0:56:160:56:20

a challenging task for any graphic designer.

0:56:200:56:23

We've got things overlapping that wouldn't necessarily grow at the same time,

0:56:230:56:27

but all the growth of each individual plant is absolutely accurate.

0:56:270:56:30

It's exactly what they would do.

0:56:300:56:32

We're just seeing it in a shorter space of time.

0:56:320:56:35

That big rock in the foreground at the end of the shot that we wanted to try and get stuff climbing on,

0:56:350:56:40

that's worked really, really well.

0:56:400:56:42

This is the bramble here.

0:56:420:56:43

Had to measure it so carefully so we knew exactly where these things were, how round they were,

0:56:430:56:49

how deep they were from the camera.

0:56:490:56:50

Then when we take the blue out of that

0:56:500:56:53

you can see that the plants start to sit into the shot

0:56:530:56:55

exactly where we wanted them to be,

0:56:550:56:57

things appearing from behind the tree,

0:56:570:56:59

forming on the top of the rock.

0:56:590:57:01

-That's fantastic.

-So here they go.

0:57:010:57:03

If I switch those off

0:57:030:57:04

you can see how just how neatly they slot into the shot.

0:57:040:57:07

If we play it, you can see

0:57:070:57:09

that everything's sticking in pretty well.

0:57:090:57:14

96 layers, 15 tracks and two years later, the shot is finally complete.

0:57:160:57:23

A 60-second shot that proved to be one of the most complex

0:57:270:57:31

ever attempted in natural history film-making.

0:57:310:57:34

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:100:58:14

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:140:58:17

Plants' solutions to life's challenges are as ingenious and manipulative as any animal's.

Innovative time-lapse photography opens up a parallel world where plants act like fly-paper, or spring-loaded traps, to catch insects. Vines develop suckers and claws to haul themselves into the rainforest canopy. Every peculiar shape proves to have a clever purpose. The dragon's blood tree is like an upturned umbrella to capture mist and shade its roots. The seed of a Bornean tree has wings so aerodynamic they inspired the design of early gliders. The barrel-shaped desert rose is full of water. The heliconia plant even enslaves a humming bird and turns it into an addict for its nectar.


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