This definitely isn't your average plant dad vibe.

Flower Power

Bioluminescent houseplants are now a thing, and they're gonna put those old Chia Pets to shame.

In a press release, the synthetic biology startup Light Bio announced that its bioluminescent offering, dubbed "Firefly Petunias," are now available for preorder in the US. And honestly, the $29 the company is charging seems like a steal for how novel they are.

The science behind bioengineered glowing plants has come a long way since the 1980s, when scientists first injected firefly genes into plants to make them glow. Light Bio's Firefly Petunias instead build on scientific discoveries gleaned from naturally-occurring bioluminescent fungi.

While glowing mushrooms have long been a documented thing, it wasn't until recently that scientists figured out not only how to isolate the genes that make them glow, but also how to inject them into plants and, now, how to make them brighter.

Fungal Matters

In a study published last month in the journal Nature Methods, a consortium of Russian scientists explained how they were able to enhance the "self-sustained luminescence" effect first gleaned from Neonothopanus nambi, which is otherwise known as the poisonously glowing puffball mushroom found in South America.

Initially used to create glowing tobacco plants — put that in your pipe and smoke it! — back in 2020, the bioluminescence from N. nambi has been used in labs to make all kinds of plants glow, but only barely.

In the newer research, however, scientists managed to further gene-hack plants using the fungi's eukaryotes to glow up to 100 times brighter than those first efforts from just a few years ago, resulting in the gorgeous and seemingly quite luminous petunias Light Bio is now selling.

Light Bio CEO Keith Wood bragged that the "magical experience we are bringing to people across the country" is one that he's been at for decades. He's right to do so, considering that he worked on the team that created the glowing plants from the 80s, and the firefly genes used in those experiments seem likely to have inspired the branded name of his company's patented petunias.

Naturally, the press release also contained some goofy accolades as well, light those from Jason Kelly, the CEO and founder of Gingko Bioworks, which helped fund Light Bio, and who said that Firefly Petunias are "bringing us leaps and bounds closer to our solarpunk dream of living in Avatar's Pandora."

Yes, it's cringe — but if you'd made glowing plants, you'd probably have some embarrassingly earnest things to say about it, too.

More on gene hacking: Scientists Gene-Hack Bacteria to Turn Waste Plastic Into Kevlar-Like Spider Silk

Share This Article