World's first glow-in-the-dark plant
genetically engineered


News: American biotechnology company Bioglow has applied synthetic biology processes to create plants that glow, which its founder claims are "truly the first of their kind."

American firm genetically engineers world's first glow-in-the-dark plant

Bioglow, which is based at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis, Missouri, claims its Starlight Avatar is the first plant that is able to light up autonomously, without the need for external treatments or stimuli such as chemicals or ultraviolet lighting.

"There are no comparables on the market, these are truly first of their kind," the plants' creator and Bioglow founder Alexander Krichevsky told Dezeen.

American firm genetically engineers world's first glow-in-the-dark plant

Krichevsky, a specialist in microbiology, developed the plants by introducing DNA from luminescent marine bacteria to the chloroplast genome of a common houseplant, so the stem and leaves constantly emit a faint light similar to that produced by fireflies and other bioluminescent organisms.

American firm genetically engineers world's first glow-in-the-dark plant
The Starlight Avatar plant is derived from the ornamental Nicotiana Alata plant family

Krichevsky is working on increasing the brightness of the plants, which currently need to be viewed in a darkened room. He told Dezeen that his technique could attract a new audience to the ornamental plant market and eventually provoke a revolution in lighting design.

"We think that glowing plants will particularly be of interest to the fans of the movie Avatar," said Krichevsky, referring to the 2009 science fiction feature film set on an alien planet where flora and fauna are illuminated at night.

American firm genetically engineers world's first glow-in-the-dark plant

He added that they could also be used as efficient light sources for interiors, architecture or transport infrastructure. "In the long term we see use of glowing plants in contemporary lighting design, namely in landscaping and architecture as well as in transportation, marking driveways and highways with natural light that does not require electricity," he pointed out. "We also have a capacity to make plants glow in response to environmental cues, making them effective environmental and agricultural sensors."

American firm genetically engineers world's first glow-in-the-dark plant

Prospective buyers will be able to bid for one of a limited number of the Starlight Avatar plants via an online auction due to take place in late January. The plants are shipped in cultivation boxes containing a plastic nutrient-rich gel and can be transferred to a plant pot when fully developed. Each plant has a life cycle of two to three months.

Main image is by Dan Saunders.

  • aj

    I would love to have one!

  • AlaTown

    In Nov. 1986 David Ow et al. published an article in the journal ‘Science’ demonstrating that genes from fireflies had been inserted into tobacco plants, making them glow.

    There was even a picture of this in my high school biology textbook, and that was a long time ago:

    Bioluminescent genes are implanted as markers in GM plant research. Not sure is the no-additives claim is particularly makes this new.

    Point of interest: the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is supported by the Monsanto corporation.

  • eddy

    Well, that title is quite wrong. At least, these guys did it first for sure (2003-2006):

  • woohoo

    Well wow, if it’s the world’s first, then just wow. Great. *slow clap*

  • Kazabazua

    I’m calling ‘photoshop’ on the first and last picture of the guy and the girl – it doesn’t even look like the same plant.

    • Alex Krichevsky

      Thank you for your note.
      The top picture is an artwork by an Australian artist Dan Saunders, pictures below are of the actual Starlight Avatar plant. Pictures are fully described at our website at
      Alex, Bioglow.

  • Alberto T. Estévez

    Well, historically it’s not the first. Others have researched the same before. But, at the end, if works for our planetary sustainability will be OK.

  • diego

    The one with the guys is photoshopped for sure. The levels of bioluminescence are still quite low in performance :-)

    Anyway, I think this research group made it “possible” (since is not efficient enough) some years earlier…

  • Cassandra


  • Glowing Plant ( is also working on producing bioluminescent plants, we ran a Kickstarter campaign last year.

  • theBlaza

    We really mess around with nature! This is not normal.

    • Andi

      Yes, I wonder if this could cause errors in eco systems, like the toads in Australia or so.

    • Patrik D’haeseleer

      Yeah well, houses and clothes are not exactly natural either.

  • firman ryan lim

    Please make glowing grass.

  • bolweevil

    Genetic engineering is not okay – unless it’s a glow in the dark plant.

  • ninski

    What a ridiculous exercise! What (real) problem does that solve? I suppose plants and flowers aren’t interesting enough, or beautiful enough as is. This to me isn’t progress.

  • Julien

    Here is a short film with young biohacker in London, a self taught scientist obsessively trying to create plants that glow in the dark:

  • Lukas Kambic

    Light bulbs use electricity. This plant doesn’t.