playlist

The secret lives of plants

Trees talk, flowers build elaborate traps and some plants can even come back from the dead. Skeptical? These fascinating talks may just grow on you.

  1. 13:50
    Stefano Mancuso The roots of plant intelligence

    Plants behave in some oddly intelligent ways: fighting predators, maximizing food opportunities ... But can we think of them as actually having a form of intelligence of their own? Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso presents intriguing evidence.

  2. 19:31
    Richard Preston The mysterious lives of giant trees

    Science writer Richard Preston talks about some of the most enormous living beings on the planet, the giant trees of the US Pacific Northwest. Growing from a tiny seed, they support vast ecosystems — and are still, largely, a mystery.

  3. 14:08
    Rachel Sussman The world's oldest living things

    Rachel Sussman shows photographs of the world's oldest continuously living organisms — from 2,000-year-old brain coral off Tobago's coast to an "underground forest" in South Africa that has lived since before the dawn of agriculture.

  4. 13:48
    Jonathan Drori The beautiful tricks of flowers

    In this visually dazzling talk, Jonathan Drori shows the extraordinary ways flowering plants — over a quarter million species — have evolved to attract insects to spread their pollen: growing 'landing-strips' to guide the insects in, shining in ultraviolet, building elaborate traps, and even mimicking other insects in heat.

  5. 18:19
    Suzanne Simard How trees talk to each other

    "A forest is much more than what you see," says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.

  6. 21:35
    Antonio Donato Nobre The magic of the Amazon: A river that flows invisibly all around us

    The Amazon River is like a heart, pumping water from the seas through it, and up into the atmosphere through 600 billion trees, which act like lungs. Clouds form, rain falls and the forest thrives. In a lyrical talk, Antonio Donato Nobre talks us through the interconnected systems of this region, and how they provide environmental services to the entire world. A parable for the extraordinary symphony that is nature. 

  7. 13:56
    Jill Farrant How we can make crops survive without water

    As the world's population grows and the effects of climate change come into sharper relief, we'll have to feed more people using less arable land. Molecular biologist Jill Farrant studies a rare phenomenon that may help: "resurrection plants" — super-resilient plants that seemingly come back from the dead. Could they hold promise for growing food in our coming hotter, drier world?

  8. 17:25
    Michael Pollan A plant's-eye view

    What if human consciousness isn't the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn's clever strategy game to rule the Earth? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see the world from a plant's-eye view.

  9. 14:12
    Ameenah Gurib-Fakim Humble plants that hide surprising secrets

    In this intriguing talk, biologist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim introduces us to rare plant species from isolated islands and regions of Africa. Meet the shape-shifting benjoin; the baume de l'ile plate, which might offer a new treatment for asthma; and the iconic baobab tree, which could hold the key to the future of food. Plus: monkey apples.