Film: The Private Life of Plants – Fellowship of Humanity    

Film: The Private Life of Plants

Posted by Humanist Hall on December 1, 2011as , , , , , , ,




Wednesday, December 28 at 7:30 pm

The Private Life of Plants

Episode I: Traveling

by David Attenborough




This first Episode looks at how plants are able to move. The bramble is an aggressive example: it advances forcefully from side to side and, once settled on its course, there is little that can stand in its way. An altogether faster species is the birdcage plant, which inhabits Californian sand dunes. When its location becomes exposed, it shifts at great speed to another one with the assistance of wind and it is this that allows many forms of vegetation to distribute their seeds. While not strictly a plant, the spores of fungi are also spread in a similar fashion. One of the most successful (and intricate) flowers to use the wind is the dandelion, whose seeds travel with the aid of “parachutes.” They are needed to travel miles away from their parents, who are too densely packed to allow any new arrivals. Trees have the advantage of height to send their seeds further, and the cottonwood is shown as a specialist in this regard. The humidity of the tropical rainforest creates transportation problems, and the liana is one plant whose seeds are aerodynamic “gliders.” Some, such as those of the sycamore, take the form of “helicopters,” while others, such as the squirting cucumber release their seeds by “exploding.” Water is also a widely used method of propulsion. However, most plants use living couriers, whether they be dogs, humans, and other primates, ants, or birds, etc., and to that end, they use color and smell to signify when they are ripe for picking.


This amazing film utilizes time-lapse sequences extensively in order to grant insights that would otherwise be impossible. Plants live on a different time scale, and even though their life is highly complex and often surprising, most of it is invisible to humans unless events that happen over months or even years are shown within seconds.


Like many traditional wildlife documentaries, this film makes use of almost no computer animation. The mechanisms of evolution are taught transparently by showing the advantages of various types of plant behavior in action. The adaptations are often complex, as it becomes clear that the environment to which plants must adapt comprises not just soil, water, and weather, but also other plants, fungi, insects, and other animals, and even humans. This film shows that co-operative strategies are often much more effective than predatory ones, as these often lead to the prey developing methods of self-defense — from plants growing spikes to insects learning to recognize mimicry.












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