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DAVID ATTENBOROUGH; On how you'll never look at your garden plants in the same way again..

HE'S back... and things just turned nasty.

For his new TV series, Sir David Attenborough focuses on the aggressive behaviour of plants, guaranteeing you will see your borders in a whole new light.

"I've always been curious and fascinated by such things and, particularly as a child, enjoyed nothing better than a nature hunt around the garden, turning over stones to see what creatures lay beneath," he says.

For the three-part Kingdom of Plants, the naturalist - now 86 years old - was back on his hands and knees, crawling around the magnificent 18th-century glasshouses for a whole year to record plant behaviour never before seen by the human eye.

Predatory plants are just some of the fascinating species in Sir David's mini-series, which has been captured in breathtaking 3D using cutting edge time-lapse photography at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

"Meat-eating plants have always captured my imagination, but with this new type of filming I've been able to reveal they can be every bit as aggressive as animals," says Sir David. "Time-lapse photography allows you to see things no human has ever seen before, but the added element of 3D has a transcendental impact and brings it to life, which I find truly hypnotic.

"Seeing a plant's armoury and knowing s g that they are continually adapting to suit their growing conditions makes one realise plants are survivors and constantly on the move, travelling to new areas in order to meet their needs."

They are so inventively resilient, in fact, that he predicts certain plants, such as the snow algae that are likely to disappear as the Poles melt under the influence of global warming, will almost certainly adapt to take up root elsewhere.

The show sees him getting up close and personal with several old chums, including the great Titan arum - the nickname he coined for amorphophallus titanum, originally filmed in its native Sumatra for his BBC series The Private Life of Plants.

At 8ft, it is the largest flower in the world and, using heat-sensitive cameras, Sir David reveals its secrets - how it uses a combination of heat and the powerful scent of a rotting corpse to attract its pollinators.

He also captured the pond-dwelling bladderworts as they snap shut their traps in less than a millisecond and the vampirelike sundews, which snare prey with sticky tentacles and suck the life from them.

Then there's the pitcher plant, brimming with nectar that smells seductively of fruit but instantly dissolves its curious victims into a soup of nutrients.

Some of Sir David's favourite flowers are much less intimidating. Orchids he describes as not only interesting but sexy. There are more than 26,000 recorded species with another couple of hundred new ones discovered every year by botanists hunting in the more remote areas of the world.

Generally, orchids are pollinated by a single type of insect, so species have developed "designer" blooms that are not only beautiful to look at but highly functional - some even resemble bees that con lovelorn mates into a honey trap to help spread pollen. You can see orchids in all their glory at any time of year at Kew in two orchid zones in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which holds a huge collection of 8,000 plants covering 2,800 different species.

Like many visitors to Kew, Sir David begins the new Sky series by taking us inside the iconic Palm House. Walk through the doors and you are whisked away to a magnificent rainforest where palms and cycads thrive alongside cocoa, banana and papaya plants.

From there he takes us to the Water Lily House, where the star attraction is the giant Amazon water lily, which has enormous leaves that can support a child. It is also home to one of the smallest, the pygmy water lily from Rwanda with leaves a centimetre wide, which can now only be found at Kew.

The first episode reveals how flowers evolved 140 million years ago while the final instalment looks at their future.

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank was launched in 1996 with Sir David as patron. It houses almost two billion seeds, representing more than 30,000 species, to ensure their survival for generations.

The collection is continually growing and best demonstrates the part Kew plays in the future of our planet.

Although he has a fascination for exotic, brightly-coloured specimens, Sir David's own garden down the road in Richmond features a modest meadowland mix of native plants that help in his efforts as president of Butterfly Conservation.

As he explains: "Plants that are highly bred for their colour are actually useless for attracting insects."

KINGDOM of Plants 3D begins next Saturday at 6pm on Sky 3D and in 2D on Sky Atlantic HD.

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Giant water lily The Palm House at Kew Titan arum at Kew Stunning orchid Pond-dwelling bladderwort
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 20, 2012
Words:808
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