Show Details

Smart Houseplants

July 20, 2018

Could genetically engineered houseplants protect our homes?

Transcript

Houseplants. (Kaboompics/Pixabay)

Houseplants. (Kaboompics/Pixabay)

Special Extended Version of Science Update, featuring the world premiere of University of Tennessee plant scientist Neal Stewart’s Houseplant Song!

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Smart houseplants. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

NEAL STEWART (University of Tennessee):

(Sings) You’ve been talkin’ to your houseplants for all these years

But thanks to genetic engineers, someday, your houseplants are gonna talk back

HIRSHON:

That’s University of Tennessee plant scientist and balladeer Neal Stewart singing about the role specially-designed houseplants could play as indicators of harmful compounds in the home. Like our guts, buildings have unique microbiomes, which sometimes contain mold spores, viruses, and gases that make us sick. Stewart’s team writes in the journal Science that houseplants could be genetically engineered to change color in the presence of these potentially harmful agents.

NEAL STEWART:

The idea is to make a plant that has a gene switch, an off to on switch, when a particular stimulus is present.

HIRSHON:

The researchers envision a wall of houseplant sensors for the home. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

STEWART

(Sings)

…They might tell you about mold by smellin’ those VOCs

Yeah, they might tell you about a cold before it can make you sneeze

You been talking to your houseplants for all these years

But thanks to genetic engineers, someday, your houseplants are gonna talk back

That’s right, yeah someday, your houseplants are gonna talk back

Story by Susanne Bard
Houseplant Song and original lyrics by Neal Stewart