The secret light of plants

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bioglow
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.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com

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