Episode 156: How Do Plants Survive in Extreme Habitats?

Meet the Expert: Matthew Biggs, Expert Gardener, author, and broadcaster

Matthew BiggsMatthew trained at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He has presented numerous television programmes, notably Channel 4’s ‘Garden Club’, stepped behind the camera to direct Meridian Television’s popular gardening series ‘Grass Roots’ and worked as Horticultural Consultant for a garden design series on Channel 5.

He has written several books including the recently revised ‘Matthew Biggs’s Complete Book of Vegetables’ which has been translated into five languages. Matthew has also contributed to two Gardeners’ Question Time Books, ‘Plant Chooser’ and ‘Gardening Techniques & Tips’, and was commissioned by the Eden Project to write ‘Gardening at Eden and how to do it at home’.

Matthew contributes to several magazines, including the Royal Horticultural Society Journal – The Garden, BBC Gardeners’ World, Countryfile and Gardens Illustrated and leads gardening tours worldwide.

He lectures at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Oxford University Botanic Gardens, the Cookery School of Michelin starred chief Jean-Christophe Novelli and is course Director of the Plants and Plantsmanship course at the English Gardening School.

Matthew is also a regular panelist on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Gardener’s Question Time’.

King Monkey cup    skkim rhubarb


Matthew loves to chat about plants with unusual adaptations, including:

  • TROPICAL Cloud Forests — The enormous king monkey cup creates nectar that attracts shrews. The nectar has a chemical that makes them need to poop, which nourishes the plant (if an unlucky shrew falls in, the plant eats that, too!)
  • ARID Coastal Desert — The alien-like welwitschia survives in the scorching desert not by retaining water but by drinking fog through the pores in its leaves (which can grow up to 20 ft long!)
  • COLD High Mountain Screes — The sikkim rhubarb braces for the cold with its thin, translucent leaves (called bracts), which act like greenhouse windows and protect the plant from UV light, heavy rain, and extreme temperatures.





Challenge:   Go through the grocery store and look for everything that is made of plants! (take a notebook, there will be a lot) 

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A Home for Every Plant

Highlighted book for this episode! 

A Home for Every Plant by Matthew Biggs,  illustrated by Lucila Perini

Without plants there would be no life on Earth, but most people are blind to their impact. This stylish and informative introduction to plants sets out to cure ‘plant blindness’ by introducing children to 66 amazing plants from the six major climactic zones around the world.

From the smelliest, such as the massive Titan Arum of the Indonesian rainforest, which stinks of rotting flesh to attract insects, to the hardest-working, including peat moss, an overlooked bog plant that helps protect our planet by trapping carbon dioxide, readers will learn about the vital role of plants in Nature through detailed, vibrant illustrations and fascinating facts. Children will also learn how to use their new-found knowledge of the plant’s natural environment to care for the plants around them and at home.



Book List: 

Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden  by Renata Brown

DK Eyewitness Books: Plant: Discover the Fascinating World of Plants by David Burnie

We Garden Together!: Projects for Kids: Learn, Grow, and Connect with Nature by Jane Hirschi (Author), Educators at City Sprouts (Author), Kim Lowe (Photographer)

Gail Gibbons’ From Seed to Plant Workbook by Gail Gibbons

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