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  • Writer's pictureJohn Chapin

Petunias That Glow in the Dark!

Updated: Apr 29

Photo by Light Bio

The biology lab Light Bio has worked for decades to develop luminous plants that continuously glow in the dark. The first bioluminescent plants were demonstrated in labs more than 35 years ago, but a few kinks needed to be worked out. With advances in gene-editing, scientists have been able to splice genes from naturally bioluminescent mushrooms into petunias so that their leaves and flowers emit a soft, green glow in the dark. The effect is mesmerizingly impressive, accentuating the natural patterns in the plant.

The healthier the plant, the brighter the glow, which is somewhere around the level of moonlight. These petunias do not require any special food or treatment, but you can make them brighter by placing a ripe banana skin under the plants which emits an ethylene growth hormone to increase the plants’ metabolism. Unlike fluorescence, a

trait that has been bred into some tropical fish, and which requires special light bulbs to be seen, bioluminescence is self-generating by the plant.

The USDA approved the sale of ‘Firefly’ petunias last September, and the company is now talking pre-orders at Light.Bio for spring delivery. The company chose petunias because they’re popular as ornamental plants, are annuals, and are not considered invasive species, so the chances of the modified genes spreading into native plants and

disrupting ecosystems should be minimal. If you’re a science nut, or just want to grow an unusual plant that will certainly be a conversation piece in your garden, you might want to check this out.

Happy gardening!

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