Smarty Plants

As adamant as we humans are about being the most superior of all living things on this planet, I am compelled to differ. To begin with, I don’t think our time on earth should be focused on proving our dominance over everything else. In doing so, we expend enormous efforts and do considerable damage to the entire planet. We go well beyond what we need to do to survive and thrive. It seems we reach for excess in all areas. Food, shelter, clothing, safety, comfort …. We commit acts of unspeakable violence for reasons of wanting more than we need. Of course, we often disguise our true intents in the name of doing good. To put it plainly, humans love playing God. A greedy, selfish, wrathful God.

But look around at those other living beings with whom we share this world. Not a single animal or plant takes more than it needs to live and procreate. I am particularly in awe of plants. They truly rule!
Think about it – while humans cannot exist without plants, the reverse is not true! What would we eat? How would we build our homes, feed our animals, make our clothes, obtain life saving medicine? All of our celebrations and observances incorporate plants in some form or other. Meanwhile, plants themselves can grow happily without us altogether. Take away plant life and you effectively end our race.

How plants live is mighty clever. Whatever they need, comes to them. The pollinators, the rain, the sunlight, the wind. Their seeds, distributed by creature or wind, establish themselves wherever conditions are ideal and calmly continue the family line. When the climate turns unusually harsh as in a drought, plants are known to go dormant and/or set seeds in quantity so the species can be preserved for when circumstances return to normal. Research has shown that when a tree is attacked by a pest, it sends out chemical signals to neighboring trees which in turn arm themselves by synthesizing compounds that could help repel or harm the pests.

To protect themselves, the kingdom Plantae has developed a plethora of weapons. Disguises, thorns, chemicals that kill/repel/cause sickness or allergies, bark, fatty coats, trapping mechanisms and, in some cases even ensuring that animal ‘bodyguards’ are always at hand. Pretty cool right?

Plants have evolved to look or smell nice to those they need for pollination. In fair exchange, they offer their nectar or fruit. And if humans choose them for their gardens or farms, well, what the heck, the odds of survival just got better.

They respond to seasons with aplomb. Highly tuned to even the teeniest shifts in weather and temperature, like state of the art, well-oiled machines, they will launch themselves to grow, set fruit, enter senescence and dormancy right on cue. Ingenious and resilient, flora outdo fauna by far. And compared to Homo sapiens, they are, in my opinion, the most superior of beings.
Lets start treating them with due respect. Each time I bite into an apple, enjoy a cup of coffee, fix a salad, treat a cold with Echinacea, perfume myself with rose water, sit under the shade of a tree, use my wooden dining table, select a linen shirt, receive a gift of flowers or, go about a myriad quotidian activities, I will do so with heartfelt gratitude and humility.

Life with plants is very good.

The images below demonstrate our dependence on plants:

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

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