I have a planet where I want all plants to be blue and glowing. I was thinking that they could use something other than light for energy. I want the plants to always glow. The atmosphere is basically the same as Earth's. So is the soil. So I want to hear some of your ideas/suggestions.

Main Point: What are some ways for plants on a planet with Earth's atmosphere and soil to glow blue all the time?

  • $\begingroup$ Glowing while it's light out? $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Feb 14 '20 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't really an answer, but the question of why plants are green doesn't really have a definitive answer. They could just as easily have evolved to be purple or blue. $\endgroup$ – Adam Reynolds Feb 15 '20 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamReynolds A 2008 Scientific American article ("The Color of Plants on Other Worlds") actually did answer that very question: "The energy spectrum of sun- light at Earth’s surface peaks in the blue-green, so scientists have long scratched their heads about why plants reflect green, thereby wasting what appears to be the best available light. The answer is that photosynthesis does not depend on the total amount of light energy but on the energy per photon and the number of photons that make up the light. 1/ $\endgroup$ – Astrid_Redfern Feb 15 '20 at 22:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Whereas blue photons carry more energy than red ones, the sun emits more of the red kind. Plants use blue photons for their quality and red photons for their quantity. The green photons that lie in between have neither the energy nor the numbers, so plants have adapted to absorb fewer of them." /2 $\endgroup$ – Astrid_Redfern Feb 15 '20 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ OP, you talk about this planet having an Earth-like atmosphere and soil. If that's the case, I assume it's orbiting a yellow sun like ours? $\endgroup$ – Astrid_Redfern Feb 16 '20 at 15:15

Scientists already have done something like this by mixing genes of plants with genes extracted from bio-luminescent bacteria.

For example, this research paper and this article describe the creation of bioluminescent tobacco plants by injecting DNA from Photobacterium leiognathi into Nicotiana tabacum. It looks like the plants glowed green instead of blue, though some research has been done into getting those bacteria to glow red-orange instead.

Arabidopsis cress plants were made bioluminescent by a similar method, although they did not glow strongly enough to be commercially viable.

One way you can have it in your world is just by having that bacteria live inside all of your flora in a symbiotic relationship.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ There's nothing preventing the plants from developing those genetic mechanisms themselves. The mechanism uses far less energy than most plants take in through photosynthesis (the light isn't as bright as sunlight), so the calorie economics works out. $\endgroup$ – John O Feb 14 '20 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @John O, well plant don't absorb 100% of the sunlight they receive. So not sure if the economics part holds up. But Bioluminescent bacteria works, since they can feed on something else and the light can be part of how they get food. $\endgroup$ – Tyler S. Loeper Feb 14 '20 at 20:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why don't you add that already existing example? I'm never a fan of just taking something out of the lab for your alien planet because you repackage other people's work and take the 'alien' away, however I'm a fan of showing that a problem has been solved to allow someone to focus on what's important. The best way to show them is giving them something easily to Google, read more about in a linked source or even see $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 14 '20 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the feedback, it helps. :) $\endgroup$ – Vexxen Feb 14 '20 at 20:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, but the same could be said if the op had googled or did any research without your answer. I don't think it's a good answer if you have to google the key points after reading it $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Feb 15 '20 at 8:24

It's easy to bioengineer a bioluminescent plant. The relevant chemistry doesn't change from plants to jellyfish, so just splice a few genes.

They'll be dim enough that you'll barely notice the glow in direct sunlight, but it'll be enough to read by at night. If you want brighter, you'll run into metabolic issues.

Would this ever evolve naturally? Hard to say. It didn't. And I'm having a hard time thinking why it would. Glowing flowers, maybe, to attract polinators, but that'd be seasonal.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the imput I appreciate it $\endgroup$ – Vexxen Feb 18 '20 at 18:50

There are glowing fungi. Why not plants?

glowing mushrooms


“Why do luminescent mushrooms, all of which emit light 24 hours per day, which must be an energy consumptive process, glow at all?” Desjardin asks. “There is no one answer to this question and we suspect that different species may glow for different reasons, especially dictated by which part of the mushroom or its mycelium glows.”

Glowing fungi occur so glowing plants could too. These fungi glow all the time. It is a super interesting question why some fungi glow. It costs energy to glow and I have to think it would be one mutation to lose the glow and save the energy, so glowing must confer a fitness benefit.

I like the idea that the glowing is a side effect of a molecule that offers protection against oxygen radicals produced by decomposing wood. That would explain why there are no glowing plants - they don't decompose wood. Your glow plants might be protecting themselves against some similar environmental hazard on your world.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the imput $\endgroup$ – Vexxen Feb 18 '20 at 18:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.