The Secret Life of Plants
Play • 25 min

How do you capture the image of a 150-foot-tall tree in the middle of a dense rainforest? If you’re National Geographic Explorer Nirupa Rao, you pull out your paints. Rao draws from the centuries-old practice of botanical illustration to catalog and celebrate native plant life of the southern Indian rainforest, introducing new audiences to the wonders they hold.

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This Earth Day, celebrate our planet’s beautiful, remote, and at-risk locations—and meet the explorers protecting them—at

See Nirupa’s illustrations on Instagram, @niruparao. And check out her books Hidden Kingdom and Pillars of Life.

“Sky islands” in the Western Ghats host an almost unbelievable array of microclimates—and a chance for scientists to see evolution in action.

King cobras, which live in the Western Ghats, can "stand up" and look a full-grown person in the eye. Fortunately, they avoid humans whenever possible.

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Rainforests have an unsung hero that keeps the forest healthy and functional: termites. Also, National Geographic’s resident artist, Fernando Baptista, brings stories to life by sculpting clay models, then using them for a drawing or stop-motion film.

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