Preview Subtitle for Life


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Midwinter, and the countryside is so still,
it seems almost lifeless.

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But these trees and bushes
and grasses around me

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are living organisms just like animals.

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And they have to face very much
the same sort of problems

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as animals face throughout their lives
if they're to survive.

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They have to fight one another,
they have to compete for mates.

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They have to invade new territories.

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But the reason we're seldom aware
of these dramas

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is that plants, of course,
live on a different time-scale.

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But these days we have ways
of speeding things up visually,

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and then you can see
just how dramatic the lives of plants can be.

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Condense three months into twenty seconds

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and the desolation of winter
quickly warms into the riot of spring.

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Speed a week into a minute,

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and you can sense the urgency with which the
ground-living plants race to unfurl their flowers.

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Wood anemones nod attentively at the sun
as it rises and sets each day.

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Above, hazel leaves, moving to the same rhythm,
pulse as they expand to their full size.

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Beneath them, the broad leaves of docks
are rising from the ground.

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Foxgloves gape almost alarmingly as they invite
insects to come and collect their pollen.

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Strange though it may seem, some plants
can move not just their flowers and leaves,

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but they can travel from place to place.

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Take, for example, this bramble.

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Of all the woodland plants,
this is one of the most aggressive.

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It waves its shoots agitatedly from side to side,
as if feeling for the best way forward.

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And when a shoot settles on its course,
it thrusts ahead relentlessly.

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The invading stem's backward-pointing spines

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give it the grip it needs to climb over
almost anything that stands in its way.

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It can advance as much as three inches in a day.

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Before long, the shoot will put down rootlets,

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and then new territory will have been annexed
for the bramble's empire.

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Other adult plants travel even faster.

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The bird-cage plant lives in California,

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but the desert dunes are always moving

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and a sheltered site
can suddenly become intolerably exposed.

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So the plant must find a new place.

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This plant is now dead,
but within it there is still life.

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