Tagged: plant blindness



Greening the next generation

The Green Planet by Leisa Stewart–Sharpe and Kim Smith, 2022. Puffin Books (an imprint of the Penguin Random House group of companies). Not so long ago I appraised The Green Planet by Simon Barnes. Although I had positive things to say about that book; I had a major issue with the absence of any sources for the myriad facts it presented. That particularly critical view was prompted in part by the absence of a declared audience for the title, and in part by assessing it against the remit of the BBC, the broadcasting organisation that produced the landmark TV series...

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Plant blindness eradicated *

Plant blindness [PB] is the term coined by James Wandersee & Elisabeth Schussler (The American Biology Teacher 61(2): 82–86, 1999; https://doi.org/10.2307/4450624) for the phenomenon in humans whereby plants are not seen – literally overlooked – in nature, and consequently their importance to humanity is not appreciated. It’s also been called zoochauvinism, and zoocentrism, which terms emphasise the perceived pre-eminence and importance of animals above all other forms of life – plants, bacteria, fungi, algae and protozoa, and Archaea. As Botanists we know the importance of plants** – and related photosynthetic organisms such as algae and cyanobacteria – to the lives...

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What real people think about plants

Vickery’s Folk Flora: An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants by Roy Vickery, 2019. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. For the past several weeks I’ve been tackling Rebecca Armstrong’s Vergil’s Green Thoughts. What a contrast it was to now be looking at Vickery’s Folk Flora by Roy Vickery. Its sub-title The A-Z of Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants clearly indicates the scope and content of the book, and it is a straightforward plants-and-people tome. However, with alphabetically-listed entries that start at ‘Abortion’ and end with ‘Yucca’; the book clearly has some quirks. Abortion is...

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Plant blindness in smartphone identification applications – are we passing on our biases to our helpful apps?

It is well-known that people are better at identifying animals than plants and this relative inability of people to identify plants is increasingly termed “plant blindness”. Recent research has identified links between undervaluing nature, mental health, and plant blindness. Ask anyone to identify common animals and most will easily identify badgers, foxes, blackbirds and otters. But ask the same people (assuming you have not asked a botanist in the first place) to identify rowan, lords & ladies, horse chestnuts or wood anemone and most will be stumped. There are many useful guides to help the more nature-minded of us to...

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Chrysosplenium ramosissimum

Check beneath your boots…

When people mention plant blindness* they tend to focus on the ‘lack of appreciation of the role of plants in the world’ notion. That is important, but there has always been another side to plant blindness, people’s apparent inability to see plants in the natural world. That second issue is part of the inspiration for the establishment of the 15º Laboratory in 1996 by one of the founding-fathers of plant blindness, the late Dr Jim Wandersee. We are told that it has been experimentally determined that individuals prefer to view objects that lie between 0 and 15° below the imaginary...

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Raising awareness of plant blindness

Readers of this column will know that there is a problem with the inability – or unwillingness – of people generally to appreciate plants. This is the well-recognised phenomenon of plant blindness. Although we’ve talked about it before in Plant Cuttings items, it’s now time to go visual. To that end I’d shamelessly like to showcase the work of one of my university’s undergraduates. Benedict Furness, an Honours Biology student, produced a video about plant blindness that deserves to be seen by an audience wider than those select few at his alma mater Bath Spa University. Produced as part of...

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Discoveries in the Garden cover

Discovering Discoveries in the Garden

Discoveries in the garden by James Nardi, 2018. University of Chicago Press. I must have reached some level of fame because a few weeks ago a copy of Discoveries in the Garden by James Nardi arrived in my pigeon hole at work. Although it contained no specific instructions as to what I was supposed to do with the book, it had the hallmarks of an item sent out for review, i.e. it contained the press release from the publisher about the book. Anyway, as surprising as it was unsolicited, this book merits attention – even if at first sight it’s...

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