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The Private Life of Plants: Travelling

   1994    Nature
Sir David Attenborough reveals plants as they have never been seen before - on the move and dangerously devious. About the major problems of life - growing, finding food, reproduction - and the varied ways plants have evolved to solve it. Filmed from the plant's point of view, using computer animations, fibre-optics and unique time-lapse photography. The first episode looks at how plants are able to move". The bramble is an aggressive example: it advances forcefully from side to side and, once settled on its course, there is little that can stand in its way. An altogether faster species is the birdcage plant, which inhabits Californian sand dunes. When its location becomes exposed, it shifts at great speed to another one with the assistance of wind — and it is this that allows many forms of vegetation to distribute their seeds. While not strictly a plant, the spores of fungi are also spread in a similar fashion. One of the most successful (and intricate) flowers to use the wind is the dandelion, whose seeds travel with the aid of 'parachutes'. They are needed to travel miles away from their parents, who are too densely packed to allow any new arrivals. Trees have the advantage of height to send their seeds further, and the cottonwood is shown as a specialist in this regard. The humidity of the tropical rainforest creates transportation problems, and the liana-species Alsomitra macrocarpa is one plant whose seeds are aerodynamic 'gliders'. Some, such as those of the sycamore, take the form of 'helicopters', while others, such as the squirting cucumber release their seeds by 'exploding'. Water is also a widely used method of propulsion. The tropical sea bean Entada gigas has one of the biggest fruits of all plants and is dispersed by water streams. However, most plants use living couriers, whether they be dogs, humans and other primates, ants or birds, etc., and to that end, they use colour and smell to signify when they are ripe for picking.
Series: The Private Life of Plants

Growing

   1994    Nature
The second episode is about how plants gain their sustenance. Sunlight is one of the essential requirements if a seed is to germinate, and Attenborough highlights the cheese plant as an example whose young shoots head for the nearest tree trunk and then climb to the top of the forest canopy, developing its leaves en route. Using sunshine, air, water and a few minerals, the leaves are, in effect, the "factories" that produce food. However, some, such as the begonia, can thrive without much light. To gain moisture, plants typically use their roots to probe underground. Trees pump water up pipes that run inside their trunks, and Attenborough observes that a sycamore can do this at the rate of 450 litres an hour — in total silence. Too much rainfall can clog up a leaf's pores, and many have specially designed 'gutters' to cope with it. However, their biggest threat is from animals, and some require extreme methods of defence, such as spines, camouflage, or poison. Some can move quickly to deter predators: the mimosa can fold its leaves instantly when touched, and the Venus flytrap eats insects by closing its leaves around its prey when triggered. Another carnivorous plant is the trumpet pitcher that snares insects when they fall into its tubular leaves. Attenborough visits Borneo to see the largest pitcher of them all, Nepenthes rajah, whose traps contain up to two litres of water and have been known to kill small rodents.
Series: The Private Life of Plants

Footsteps in the Snow

   1993    History
This episode discusses the human exploration of Antarctica, in particular the mission led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, whose team died on the way back from the South Pole. It shows the scientific work in the modern human bases in Antarctica, especially Mawson Base and its observation of Adelie Penguins (partially through tracking devices). The second half of the episode describes how the series was made. Most crucial was of course the camera work. To get access to the wildlife of the sea, for example, boats, divers, suspended capsules and remotely controlled cameras mounted on inflatables were used. Particularly dangerous to divers were Leopard Seals and other predators. The film concludes that although working in Antarctica is now much easier than during the early days of exploration, human footsteps on the continent are still exceedingly rare in part because of international treaties prohibiting industrial exploitation.
Series: Life in the Freezer

Denali: Alaska Great Wilderness

       Nature
The Indians called the frozen peak of this great Alaskan mountain range Denali, or 'the high one.' Most know it as Mount McKinley. This preserved wilderness comes to life with the thaw of spring and wildlife abounds during the brief summer, only to succumb to the grip of the long winter. Watch as 5-week-old grizzly cubs play, a moose gives birth to her calf, and a wood frog survives the deep freeze of winter. Breath-taking shots of dazzling northern lights over vast and lush wilderness make this an unforgettable Eden.
Series: The Living Edens
The Incredible Human Journey
The Incredible Human Journey

   2009    History
Tales by Light Season 2
Tales by Light Season 2

   2017    Nature
Through the Wormhole Season 7
Through the Wormhole Season 7

   2016    Culture
How Art Made the World
How Art Made the World

   2006    Art
Natural World
Natural World

   2009    Nature
The Private Life of Plants
The Private Life of Plants

   1994    Nature
Everything and Nothing
Everything and Nothing

   2011    Science