The Private Life of Plants (1995) by BBC

The Social Struggle

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Video Description

Broadcast 26 January 1995, this episode examines how plants either share environments harmoniously or compete for dominance within them. Attenborough highlights the 1987 hurricane and the devastation it caused. However, for some species, it was that opportunity for which they had lain dormant for many years. The space left by uprooted trees is soon filled by others who move relatively swiftly towards the light. The oak is one of the strongest and longest-lived, and other, lesser plants nearby must wait until the spring to flourish before the light above is extinguished by leaves. Tropical forests are green throughout the year, so brute force is needed for a successful climb to the top of the canopy: the rattan is an example that has the longest stem of any plant. As its name suggests, the strangler fig 'throttles' its host by growing around it and cutting off essential water and light. Some can take advantage of a fallen tree by setting down roots on the now horizontal trunk and getting nutriment from the surrounding moss and the fungi on the dead bark. The mountain ash grows so tall, that regeneration becomes a considerable problem. It is easily flammable, so its solution is to shed its seeds during a forest fire and sacrifice itself. It therefore relies on the periodic near-destruction of its surroundings in order to survive. Attenborough observes that catastrophes such as fire and drought, while initially detrimental to wildlife, eventually allow for deserted habitats to be reborn. (source: wikipedia.org)





Documentary Description


The series utilizes time-lapse sequences extensively in order to grant insights that would otherwise be almost 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, it makes use of almost no computer animation. The series also discusses fungi, although as it is pointed out, these do not belong to the kingdom of plants. 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. The series 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 recognise mimicry.



Yet humans can work around all these rules of nature, so Attenborough concludes with a plea to preserve plants, in the interest of self-preservation. (source: en.wikipedia.org)

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