Glowing Petunia
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Glowing Petunia

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The glowing petunia, known as the “firefly petunia,” is a genetically engineered plant that emits a continuous green glow, thanks to genes from a light-up mushroom. This innovative plant is available for pre-order at a base cost of $29.00 for consumers in the 48 contiguous states of the United States. 

The biotechnology firm Light Bio, based in Sun Valley, Idaho, is set to begin shipping a batch of 50,000 firefly petunias in April. The petunia (Petunia hybrida) appears white during the day, but in the dark, it glows a faint green. 

This groundbreaking development in plant bioluminescence has been approved by the US Department of Agriculture and is considered safe, with minimal risk of the modified genes spreading into native plants and disrupting ecosystems.

Glowing Petunia

The firefly petunia’s bioluminescence is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye and does not require any special food or light to glow.

The glow is attributed to a group of genes from the bioluminescent mushroom Neonothopanus nambi, which enables the plant to produce enzymes that convert caffeic acid into the light-emitting molecule luciferin and then recycle it back into caffeic acid, allowing for sustained bioluminescence. The plant’s glow is described as a gentle green glow similar to the light of the full moon, and its intensity can be increased by ensuring the plant is healthy and receives enough sunlight.

This glowing petunia is not only a decorative novelty but also represents a significant achievement in genetic engineering, offering a positive example of how genetic modifications can be used for the benefit of humanity. The development of the firefly petunia has sparked interest in the potential for bioluminescent plants to be used in various applications, including as an early warning system for stressed or infected crops.

For those interested in purchasing this unique plant, it can be pre-ordered directly from Light Bio’s website for $29, with shipments beginning in Spring 2024.

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