“Plants are alive in their own right.”


Gosh, do readers of the New York Times really need to be told that?  Maybe so. This article describes an "insidious condition" called "plant blindness," in which "we rarely notice plants, can rarely identify them and find them incomparably inert."  Finally, a newly named condition that’s someone else’s problem.


  1. While this condition doesn’t affect folks reading this blog, it’s definitely an epidemic. Why else would people plant saplings directly under power lines, or be surprised when a tree that’s been dropping branches for years “suddenly” falls down, or not notice that the Colorado blue spruce planted in the lowest, boggiest part of the yard isn’t exactly blue anymore? Plants are just part of the decor for a lot of folks — except they probably pay more attention to the couch than to the shrubs.

  2. My favorite insidious aspect of “plant blindness” is the question I get from people regularly when a tree is shedding something like leaves, flowers or seed pods. They ask, “Is the tree dying?”

    I tell them often, in other parts of the world it is called fall.

    The ones that really blow me away are the ones who were born and raised here and exhibit “plant blindness”. There is no urban living excuse. They are surrounded by magnificent nature on a daily basis, it is a main promo tool for tourism and the use of many plants is embedded in Hawaiian culture.

    Gardeners may rule the world someday soon.

  3. ‘Plant blindness’ is sometimes accompanied by another fun term: ‘zoochauvanism’. This refers to the emphasis school biology classes place on teaching about the animal kingdom. Plants and animals should get equal time in class, n’es pas? Library shelves bulge with children’s books about animals, but try finding more than six where plants play the main characters. Plants are drawn into these books as green blobs without definition. Kids don’t learn much from that. And, I have to admit, there are too many plants I never notice until something draws my attention to one and I learn its name, after which I notice that particular plant everywhere.
    Oh yeah, and then there is the press, which doesn’t find much of interest in the plant kingdom. In 2002, the year the Wye oak died, few newspapers carried that story. But a story about a dog being rescued off a sailboat got worldwide coverage. Go figure!

  4. All of the above examples are familiar to me, although I’m a bit amazed that this can happen in Hawaii. I’m so with you on the zoochauvinism. Here’s my favorite teethgritter: people who are vegetarians because they “don’t want to kill anything”. These folks are living off the vital qualities of plants (as aren’t we all) and yet…

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