Words by Jessica Peace
David ‘The Daddy’ Attenborough (and his camera crew) have given us soooo much. He’s gadded about with gorillas, rubbed horns with rhinos and unearthed the ocean for us - but he’s also a true plant hero. Salute!
THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PLANTS
In the nineties Attenborough and team slapped on the time-lapse heavy for the documentary series, ‘The Private Life of Plants’. Dave, bored by the gardening shows on telly realised that by using time-lapse he could show the ‘drama’ of plants - and that he did; with titles like, ‘The Social Struggle’ and ‘Surviving’, Dave showed the British public the true magnificence of floral life. (There’s quite a bit on youtube - get it watched.)
In the noughties Dave got those cameras set-up all over again to show us more plant stuff in his series ‘Life’ (it’s up on iplayer now), the ‘Plants’ episode showed the radical survival techniques of plants from mangroves to grass.
GOING 3D AT KEW
More recently Attenborough spent a year documenting the work and plants of Kew gardens, resulting in three ‘3D’ episodes and and app where you can explore Kew, pick up a plant you fancy and watch it’s full life cycle. How very modern.
WHAT ELSE HAS HE PACKED IN?
What’s he not? He’s worked on two ‘environmental’ musicals; he’s the ‘patron’ of all sorts including London’s Richmond Park; as well as all the animal stuff, he’s spoken on and campaigned for climate change, health, political and human rights issues, against plastic use and more controversially been brave enough to chat about population control.
IN HONOUR OF ATTENBOROUGH…
Ever had a plant named after ya? Big Dave has a few...
Nepenthes attenboroughii (Attenborough's pitcher plant)
In 2007 two researchers discovered this new (or newly found) Nepenthes sprouting out of the ultramafic rock (what the Earth’s mantle is made of mate) of Mount Victoria in the Philippines. This beast is big enough to gobble birds but the poor pitcher has made it onto the the world’s ‘most threatened species’ list.
Hieracium attenboroughianum (Attenborough’s hawkweed)
A hawkweed found by taxonomist Tim Rich in the Brecon Beacons, Wales; Rich said the name was a ‘personal thank you’ to Attenborough who had inspired him via the telly to study ecology.
Blakea attenboroughi (Ecuadorian flowering tree)
This sexy white petaled ‘hemiepiphyte’ (starts growing off something then sends its roots further a field to grab its nutrients) was found in a rainforest reserve that Attenborough had given quite a lot of dosh to, another thank you gift.
So, big up to Big Dave, let’s all start livin’ (at least a little) a bit more like him.