It is widely understood that people are generally more interested in animals than plants. It is just that many people don’t really notice the plants in their own environment. This is commonly called plant blindness.
Why are People Plant Blind?
In large, natural, green spaces plants seem to blend together in number and unless they are particularly distinctive, plants offer a lack of visual focus so that people don’t respond positively towards each plant as an individual. This can lead to a lack of appreciation of the aesthetic and the biological features of plants.
Humans are automatically drawn to images of animals because we are hard-wired to recognise animals. In our evolutionary history, animals have often been more important to us in terms of the threat they posed than plants. Plants seem to possess a less definable shape and importantly have no face.
It is a lack of appreciation of either the aesthetic of the biological features of plants and the misguided ranking of plants as inferior to animals that leads to the idea that plants are less worthy of human appreciation?
Why does Plant Blindness Matter?
A misguided ranking of plants as inferior to animals leads to the idea that plants are less worthy of human appreciation. It leads to a lack of appreciation plants and recognition of their importance and the fundamental role they play in maintaining life. One-fifth of the world’s plants species are threatened with extinction according to the “State of the World’s Plants” report by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. While the population of plant consumers (humans) continues to grow. This means that conservation efforts are biased towards animal species, and particularly those that are most like humans.
However, conservation efforts are biased towards animal species, and particularly those that are most like humans.
What can be done about it?
Botanical gardens play an important part in public education about the rile of the plant world. As adults, we need to be role models for the next generation by helping children notice, appreciate and seek to understand more about plants. To help spread this message, look for children’s books that tell stories about plants as it is well known that stories provide an engaging route to broadened thinking and learning.
Kim Mackenzy Andrews
Kim is a children’s author, nature writer, photographer and artist. Kim is a patch reporter for the BBC wildlife magazine. Find her nature books for children at KimMackenzyAndrews.com
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“State of the World’s Plants” report Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017,
Balding, M and Williams, KJH. “Plant blindness and the implications for plant conservation.” Conservation Biology. 2016.
Patrick, P. & Tunnicliffe, S.D. J Sci Educ Technol (2011) 20: 630. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-011-9290-7 What Plants and Animals Do Early Childhood and Primary Students’ Name? Where Do They See Them?