Image: Keith S. Brown/Wikimedia Commons.
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Plants and the diamond connection

Could your knowledge of botany be a gateway to undiscovered riches?

Image: Keith S. Brown/Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Keith S. Brown/Wikimedia Commons

The much-derided ancient ‘wisdom’ that is the Doctrine of Signatures (DoS) has it that God wanted to show Man what plants were medically useful by providing signs in their structure, shape, colour or whatever. Thus plants that bear spines might help treat injuries caused by arrows or spears, or even office staples; plants with leaves that look like body organs are suitable for treating ailments associated with those parts, etc. Far too obvious! I believe that any Creator is more subtle than that – i.e. works in even more mysterious ways than the DoS would have us believe.

How does Mr P. Cuttings arrive at this conclusion? Well, it’s all down to work by Stephen Haggerty * (Florida International University – not Florida State University as previously but erroneously stated – USA), which reveals that Pandanus candelabrum appears to grow uniquely in soil that’s associated with kimberlite deposits, in north-west Liberia. So?

Well, kimberlite is ‘an igneous rock best known for sometimes containing diamonds’ (!!) and occurs as so-called kimberlite pipes. Now, whilst there’s no guarantee that there’s a stash of diamonds and a source of unimaginable riches beneath every candelabra screw-pine (an inverted case of hiding a bushel under a light?), it does help point people in the right direction to start digging (providing they know their plants…).

And, furthermore, if indeed this phytodiamondine association is truly an act of the Divine One, it also suggests that Botanists (or geologists, or geobotanists…) are His/Her favoured creatures amongst the human population**. Diamond-prospecting using plants, a ‘pipe-dream’ come true?

* The work was published in Economic Geology June-July 2015 vol. 110 no. 4 851-856

** And one in the eye for those pesky zoologists who think they’re God’s gift to the Life Sciences!

[One wonders if this is the sort of forward-lookingness by Botanists that a recent Nature Plants Editorial had in mind… – Ed.]

Nigel Chaffey

I am a Botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international phytological organ for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I also continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience at Botany One. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. I'm happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]


  • There’s an error in your report: Dr. Haggerty is from Florida International University, Miami, FL

  • Dear Scott Zona,

    For which I apologise.
    Blog item now corrected for this establishment information.
    [And details of the related publication – curiously omitted initially! – now also added .]


    Nigel Chaffey

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