This new three-part series reveals features tales of ingenuity and intellectual rivalry. It tells the story of how people came to understand the natural order of the plant world and how the quest to discover how plants grow uncovered the secret to life on the planet.
The series features the latest plant science and shows how botanists today are at the forefront of advances which fight disease, provide radical new forms of renewable energy and help feed the world's growing population.
EP 01 - A Confusion of Names
How the breakthroughs of botanist Carl Linnaeus and naturalist John Ray moved the variation in plants from a matter of religious faith to a scientific discipline.
When nurseryman Thomas Fairchild created the world's first man-made hybrid flower, an entirely new plant that didn't exist in nature, he set botany a challenge to discover how plants breed and how they are related.
It was a botanist, William Bateson, who invented the term "genetics". He discovered how living things pass on their characteristics from generation to generation.
EP 02 - Photosynthesis
The air we breathe, and all the food we eat, is created from water, sunlight, carbon dioxide and a few minerals. That's it, nothing else. It sounds simple, but this process is one of the most fascinating and complicated in all of science. Without it there could be no life on earth. It's that important.
For centuries people believed that plants grew by eating soil. In the 17th century, pioneer botanists began to make the connection between the growth of a plant and the energy from the sun. They discovered how plants use water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce sugars - how, in fact, a plant grows.
The process of photosynthesis is still at the heart of scientific research today. Universities across the world are working hard to replicate in the lab what plants do with ruthless efficiency. Their goal is to produce a clean, limitless fuel and if they get it right it will change all our lives.
EP 03 - Hidden World
For 10,000 years or more, humans created new plant varieties for food by trial and error and a touch of serendipity. Then 150 years ago, a new era began. Pioneer botanists unlocked the patterns found in different types of plants and opened the door to a new branch of science - plant genetics. They discovered what controlled the random colours of snapdragon petals and the strange colours found in wild maize.
This was vital information. Some botanists even gave their lives to protect their collection of seeds. American wheat farmer Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel peace prize after he bred a new strain of wheat that lifted millions of people around the world out of starvation. Today, botanists believe advances in plant genetics hold the key to feeding the world's growing population.