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Watch Royal Institution Christmas Lectures online: Episode 1 Plant Wars

In this years Royal Institution Christmas Lectures ecologist Professor Sue Hartley - only the fourth woman to present the lectures since they began in 1825 - shows how the epic 300-million-year war between plants and animals has shaped us and the world we live in. Plants may seem harmless, but Professor Hartley reveals that the opposite is the case: they've had to develop terrifying and devious ways to defend themselves and attack their plant and animal enemies. Vicious poisons, lethal materials and even cunning forms of communicating with unlikely allies are just some of the weapons in their armoury that have seen off everything from dinosaurs to caterpillars. And Professor Hartley demonstrates how humans have turned plants into food, medicines and drugs and reveals what is likely to happen next in the epic struggle between plants and animals. In this first lecture Professor Hartley reveals how, despite animals attempts to destroy plants by eating them, plants are winning the war.

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