Life: Plants - Episode Nine Synopsis

Plants have successfully managed to conquer every habitat on the planet by using ingenious and cunning strategies.

Through the use of time-lapse photography, Plants reveals how plants battle for life and face the challenges of their habitats.

Plants are dependent on three main elements for survival: sunlight, water and nutrients.

Sunlight is a rare commodity on the forest floor so climbers, such as the Boston ivy and the cats-claw creeper, use other plants as a ladder to get to the light.

More than 20,000 different kinds of plants spend their entire life up in the canopy. They get their nutrients by trapping dead leaves among their roots. The rotten leaves provide a kind of compost in the branches and their exposed roots quickly absorb the slightest rain or mist.

Where there is little rain, plants find clever ways of trapping and retaining water.

The dragon’s blood tree survives in a rocky desert on moisture carried in mists. It even manages to reduce evaporation by shading its own roots.

Others, such as the desert rose, lose all of its leaves to stop evaporation and carefully stores water in its trunk.

In boggy ground, there are few nutrients so plants have to find another source.

The Venus flytrap gets its nutrients from animals. It attracts insects with its pink colour and a ring of nectar. If an unsuspecting fly touches two trigger-like hairs within 20 seconds of each other, the trap snaps shut, the fly is imprisoned, and the plant then slowly digests its victim.

The sundew, also a predatory plant, has a pinkish red colour and nectar to attract insects. It’s like a living fly paper – when a fly lands on the sundew, the leaf immediately curls up around its prey, and drowns it in sticky fluid before digesting it.

Many plants rely on animals for pollination.

In the cold, windswept Tasmanian mountains conditions are dangerous for a flower. The richea honey bush fuses its petals together into a protective case. And when the sun comes out, briefly, the plants warm up enough to produce nectar, which attracts a bird – the black currawong. The bird pulls apart the casings to get to the nectar and, at the same time, exposes the flower inside to pollinating insects. The honey bush gets pollinated before the biting winds kill the flowers.

The team were trying to achieve a shot that had never been attempted before – the entire growing season in a woodland filmed in one shot. It would bring together elements of time lapse photography, in the both the field and the studio, computer graphics and a lot of hard work and patience.

Set in a secret location on Dartmoor, the team carried numerous wheelbarrow loads of kit the 1.5 miles to the site and took two days to build the track.

With a bicycle wheel, a piece of string, a ladder and a stills camera, the team finally managed to get the base shot.

Then the track had to be rebuilt in the studio to exactly the same length and angle – and the forest had to be reconstructed around it in blue screen by time lapse cameraman Tim Sheppherd.

It took over a year to be fully completed, from a five-week track to film the foxgloves opening, getting spiders to spin webs, and even a high-speed camera shoot to get the water droplet falling at the end of the sequence.

Then it was over to Mick Connaire, the graphic designer, to bring it all together.

Producer Neil Lucas.

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