A few weeks ago, Native Plant Nursery Manager Bridget McNassar attended the National Native Seed Conference, a gathering of professionals whose work involves collection, storage, growing, research, and use of seeds of native plants. A rather seedy bunch!
Bridget recounts her experience in her most recent newsletter, grappling with a phenomenon experts call “plant blindness:”
I was struck by one of the presenters, who brought up the concept of “plant blindness,” a term used to describe the tendency of humans to tune out the plants in their surroundings, lumping them together into a sort of green backdrop. As a huge plant nerd (as I suspect many of you are!), I almost always am aware of plants, but turns out, I’m kind of in the minority! It is thought that this trait might have evolved in humans as a way of sorting through lots of visual stimuli to notice things that we may need to react to, like movement or potential threats. This habit of our brain, coupled with an ever-decreasing number of people who work in many of the plant professions (like farmers and botanists), has led to a society in which plant blindness is prevalent.
But who cares? Why should we notice plants? Well, the danger is that not noticing can possibly prevent us from acknowledging their importance in our lives. But they absolutely should be of major concern to us! Some estimate that as many as 1 in 8 plant species are threatened with extinction, disturbing when you think of all the ways that plants play a role in our lives: food, clothing, shelter, fuels, medicines, recreation, and art. Additionally, they will likely help resolve many of the challenges that we face today: food security, water shortages, climate change, creation of sustainable materials and fuels, and medical issues. The protection, research, and education of plants in our world is essential to our own survival… don’t let your brain glaze over them!. As the conference presenter said, all life depends on plants… and plants need us!