Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Glowing trees, a thousand blooms

Trees, but not actually glowing ones; image via Engadget

A pair of interesting plant related stories came out recently.  First, researchers in Taiwan reported that they were able to stimulate plant’s leaves to produce a red glow.  Their work involved infusing the leaves with gold nanoparticles, apparently shaped like sea-urchins and “dubbed nano-sea-urchins or NSUs”.  The researchers are hoping to refine the technique to the point that suitably treated street trees could replace street lights, so they clearly believe that the glowing trees are capable of producing a significant amount of light.

I love the idea of a town bathed in the light of their glowing trees.  Perhaps it’s actually part of the forest, the town is built right in the middle of a dense forest within a section of bio-luminescent trees.  Or a secret glade of trees, even a single special tree, that glows at night.  A sacred place, perhaps, with a temple of some kind and a gathering place for worshippers.  And it could work in either a futuristic setting (where it would be ecological high technology), or fantasy (druidic or elven mystical rites to ‘feed’ gold-dust to the trees).

Would the effect on the trees be permanent, or would they require constant replenishment to maintain their glow?  Would the people need a constant supply of gold to feed to the trees?  Would the trees be evergreens or deciduous?  If they’re deciduous, what happens to the leaves themselves – are they allowed to decompose and feed the trees again, are they worth something to a thief?  And if they’re deciduous, would that mean going without their light over winter?

The other story was of a master chrysanthemum grower who has produced a 1000-bloom plant.

The thousand bloom plant, via Gizmodo

The plant was produced by a long system of pinching and training the shoots, with the whole plant fitted into a metal structure to preserve the shape.  This doesn’t suggest some use to me beyond simply looking spectacular, but sometimes that is use enough.  Insert something like this into the halls of some royalty, or have this as one of these glowing trees – what if the flowers, rather than the leaves, glow at night?

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