David Attenborough discusses his 'fear of dying'

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The legendary naturalist was demonstrating during his new BBC One series that plants such as the cholla cactus can be just as aggressive as animals. Michael Gunton, the show’s executive producer, armed Sir David with thick gloves before he put his hand inside the plant. But despite the layers of protection, Sir David was left was a “painful” hand injury from the shards, but is believed to be perfectly fine.

The 95-year-old noted: “The cholla really is a physical danger.

“It has very dense spines in rosettes, so they point in all directions.

“If you just brush against it, the spines are like spicules of glass, I mean they are that sharp and they go into you and you really have trouble getting them out.

“So that is a really dangerous plant. The cholla is an active aggressor.

“You feel you better stand back and you better watch out [for it].”

It came while Sir David was filming The Green Planet in California, a three-part series that begins on Sunday.

Mr Gunton said the cactus is “so dangerous” that many animals avoid it.

He added: “Not only does it puncture you, but they sort of act like a trap.

“So if you put your hand into it, you can’t remove your fingers and you do unfortunately find grisly signs of an animal that has gone and got trapped by it.”

The new documentary was filmed in 26 countries over four years and marks the first time Sir David has returned to filming the world of plants in 27 years.

Sir David said: “Plants fight one another, plants strangle one another and you can actually see that happening [in real time].

“That you can suddenly see a plant putting out a tentacle.

“Now you know it can’t actually see, but you can see it trying to find its victim. And when it does finally touch the victim, it wraps around it quickly and strangles it.

“It’s pretty tough stuff.”

On reflection of returning to the natural world once more, Sir David said we must care for the wild.

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He described Greta Thunberg’s global battle to get leaders to face up to climate change as “admirable”.

And Sir David hasn’t given up the fight just yet.

He hopes the show will inspire more to do the same.

He said: “There is a parallel world on which we depend, and which up to now we have largely ignored, if I speak on behalf of urbanised man.

“Over half the population of the world, according to the United Nations, live in cities, only see cultivated plants and never see a wild community of plants.

“But that wild community is there and we depend upon it.”

The Green Planet: Breathing Life into Our World starts on Sunday January 9 at 7pm on BBC One.

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