Firefly Petunia: A Glow in the Dark PlantApril 17, 2024

Plants that glow in the dark, once only in the realm of science fiction, are now set to become a reality for all with the introduction of the Firefly Petunia from Light Bio. The science behind these glowing plants, first detailed in a 2020 publication in Nature Biotechnology, utilizes a bioluminescence pathway from Neonothopanus nambi mushrooms. The Firefly Petunias look identical to conventional petunias during the day, and no special treatments or conditions are required for bioluminescence.

The journey from the lab to our homes and gardens was marked by a significant milestone last September when the USDA determined that the modified petunias were not subject to regulation. Although genetically modified crop plants are routinely sold and grown, the Firefly Petunia is among just a handful of genetically modified ornamental plants that have been approved and that are available for purchase by the public.

The Light Bio website notes that the “Firefly Petunias are protected under patent, and as such, propagation and breeding are not permitted.” This appears to at least include U.S. Patent No. 11,913,033, which is assigned to Light Bio and recently issued on February 27, 2024. Claims of the patent are directed to isolated nucleic acids that encode the luciferase from Neonothopanus nambi, expression cassettes that include the nucleic acid, as well as cells producing the novel luciferase.

The Firefly Petunias are available for $29 and are expected to ship this spring. Check out the Light Bio website to order or to view some fantastical images of these glowing plants.

Brian D. Keppler is a Patent Agent at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC in the Biotechnology & Chemical Practice Group. For additional information, please visit or contact Brian directly via email at

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