Just in time for Halloween, a glowing flower goes on display in Tokyo. Instead of sorcery and magic, its creators used science to genetically modify the flower, adding a naturally fluorescent plankton protein to its genetic mix. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: This torenia flower is a bit spooky. Researchers at Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science designed it that way. The normally white flower was genetically modified to glow when exposed to blue light, using it as an energy source to trigger the fluorescent plankton proteins that were inserted into its genome to activate. The Museum's Fumitaka Wakabayashi says the glowing flower is a first. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE DIRECTOR, FUMITAKA WAKABAYASHI, SAYING: "This is the first time this has been developed world-wide and this is also the first time that it's been shown off to the general public." And the public seems impressed. After hearing about it, Sazuka Ito came to see the glowing flower for herself. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 33-YEAR-OLD VISITOR SUZUKA ITO, SAYING: "I had heard that it was a glowing flower but I was really surprised to see that the flower itself glows like that." But the flowers' exposure to blue light, which triggers its ability to glow, takes away from its ability to photosynthesize. Wakabayashi says that as long as the flower is on display... its days are numbered. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE DIRECTOR, FUMITAKA WAKABAYASHI, SAYING: "These flowers do indeed photosynthesize. If they're out in the sun or have a typical white light on them then they will photosynthesize normally. Currently as they only have a blue light on them they won't photosynthesize and so the plant will wither." But until then, the glowing torenia is a sight to see. The modified plant is currently on display at the Museum alongside other spooky glow in the dark exhibits.