Why Plants in Caves Are Bad for Everyone Involved

Artificial light is causing lampenflora to grow in caves, destroying their well-preserved murals and potentially wreaking havoc in the cave ecosystem.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Plants need sunlight to survive and as such, they don't do well at all in caves. This is a good thing as the lack of vegetation in caves allows them to maintain themselves as they are, guaranteeing that cave museums remain intact.

Unfortunately, this has been changing due to human input. People love visiting caves and have done so for many years now — think hundreds. But to do so in modern times, we tend to equip caves with artificial light.

And where there is light, there can be lampenflora, photosynthesizers that grow near artificial light sources. These plants are extremely well-adapted at surviving in tough conditions and can therefore grow in caves.

So as spores and seeds get carried into caves, they then become a serious threat. They can cover ancient paintings and can even destroy them in the process. 

If you think this is unlikely, it should be noted that in the 1960s, Lascaux cave had to be closed to the public because of algae growing on its murals. And over the years, many such caves have faced similar issues.

The problem becomes especially complicated when you consider that treatments to eliminate the lampenflora also damage the caves. What can cave supervisors do? Watch the video to find out.

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