Sir David Attenborough Explores the Life of Plants

Docu-legend Sir David Attenborough leads another illuminating nature series that shows plants as you've never seen them before

Docu-legend Sir David Attenborough leads another illuminating nature series that shows plants as you’ve never seen them before 

Plants—without them, life on Earth wouldn’t be possible. Yet they have lives of their own that are beyond human perception. 

The Green Planet, a five-part docuseries narrated by Sir David Attenborough, goes to varied environs around the world, ranging from rainforests and mountains to deserts and frozen poles, to reveal the often unseen and unknown world of plants. Indeed, much like animals, plants must fight for survival with competitors and predators to gain access to much-needed resources like food and light. 

The Green PlanetPBSUsing state-of-the-art photography systems, the series also captures how social they are, how they communicate and how they care for their young, sick and injured. And like elephants, they do have a memory. 

That’s one of the main takeaways for Paul Williams, the show’s director and producer—that plants aren’t all that different from animals. 

“I hope that people will watch this and they will almost be convinced that they’re not watching plants, they’re watching animals, really,” he says. “Because that was the big challenge of the series, was to try and draw the same empathy from the audience that they have when they’re watching an orangutan or elephants or the other animal stories that we tell. We wanted to film plants in the same way that we film animals and tell the same kind of stories.” The Green PlanetPBS

“Scientists are now starting to think of plants very much in animal terms,” he continues. “They have the same strategies, they fight, they raise their offspring, they need to find food, they need to find water. So all the different behaviours that we can empathize with, it’s all there. We just needed a way to bring it to life and that’s where the technology and the storytelling comes in.” 

In Wednesday’s opener, specially built robotic time-lapse photography captures a young balsa tree’s fight to grow up and into the rainforest’s canopy just as a vine is trying to pull it down—a scene that takes minutes to watch but took six months and hundreds of different shots to film. The Green PlanetPBS

“It feels like a boxing match,” Williams says. “It feels like a scene from Rocky. So it was kind of this immersive, in-their-world type approach that we wanted to take.” 

The Green Planet premieres Wednesday, July 6th at 5 p.m. on WTVS and 8 p.m. on KCTS