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Plant Blindness Is A Thing


Environmentalist and educator, Paul Hawken teaches us young people, how we can recognize over 1000 corporate logos but can’t name 10 garden plants or animals native to their region. I’m sure this is not exclusive to young people. My guess is many adults have the same ability. I also believe most are not be able to identify just 10 plants. This is a condition known as plant blindness.

Plant Blindness Is The Inability To See Or Notice Plants In Your Environment

According to the Botanical Society of America, plant blindness leads to the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs. It also leads to the failure to appreciate the aesthetic and unique biological features of the life forms belonging to the Plant Kingdom. This leads to the incorrect conclusion plants are unworthy of human consideration.

What Causes Plant Blindness?

The human mind is not a camera. The photographic memory doesn't really exist. We are challenged with remembering much of what we see regularly. Think about your drive to work, the one you take every day for years. Can you recall the names of the stores on the intersections you frequently stop? Do you remember for sure whose face is on a penny, a nickel, a twenty-dollar bill? Your mind remembers objects, events, and experiences better when they are important to us, and we pay attention to them. What the object means to us is crucial. A very small percentage of the population in the U.S. is involved with growing crops or the green industry.

Why We Need To Overcome Plant Blindness

People who see plants, grow them and nurture them are the people who understand the impacts of the changing environment on plants. It’s easier to deny the climate is changing if you can’t see the plants impacted by the change. Horticulturist might be the only people able to stop the impending environmental disaster. Seeing plants, knowing their common and scientific names helps connect us to the environment. This also helps us understand their water requirements. In this article about saving 85% of the water used in a landscape the fifth step in saving water was in the plants you select.

The Best Ways To Learn About Plants

People making a living in the green industry or by farming naturally pay closer attention to the environment around them because plants have more meaning in their lives. As a society, we need to place a greater emphasis on plants. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through elementary education. Another great place to start (always) is with ourselves. Find a plant mentor you can walk your neighborhood with and start learning the names of the plants and their water requirements. There are so many great books on plants available today. One of my favorites is California Plants by Dr. Matt Ritter from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. You can visit botanical gardens where the majority of the plants have identification labels. Finally, weekly trips to the nursery are helpful. Nurseries are filled with plant lovers who are thrilled to teach you about plants.

Overcoming plant blindness is one of the critical success factors in our quest to reduce water use while growing more food. All the tools to overcome plant blindness are readily available to us. Like many other environmental challenges, the key to overcoming plant blindness will be teaching the importance of the change. Explaining why the need for the change is more important than how to change. Often the best way to show the need for change is focusing on the positive impacts down the road.

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Richard Restuccia

Richard is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. He served on the Irrigation Association's Board of Directors and is a University of California Master Gardener. Richard also writes for other publications and is an award winning contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine. In 2014 his efforts were recognized with a “Leadership in Landscape” award. He has a great interest in the supply of clean water for people in developing countries and as an outdoorsman, spends his free time running, swimming and surfing.

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