There’s an odd bit of news I find heartening. Thanks to the pandemic, house plants are our new best friends. The millennial obsession that turned succulents and fiddle leaf figs into viral hashtags is no longer just a home decor trend. Pandemic plants are everywhere.
There's plenty of research on the psychological benefits of tending plants. In her new book, "The Well-Gardened Mind," psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith notes prisoners who are given the chance to grow plants are less likely to re-offend, elderly people who garden tend to live longer, and gardening helps people recover from stress, depression, trauma and addiction.
When it comes to the pandemic though, I wonder if there isn't something else going on as well. What if, while facing an existential threat and unprecedented social isolation, humans intuitively and collectively turned to some of the oldest species on earth – our green kinfolk? Because as different as they may seem, that's exactly what they are: relatives.
This week's show, "Plants As Persons," is part of our ongoing Kinship Project – a partnership with the Chicago-based Center for Humans and Nature, with support from the Kalliopeia Foundation. It features an emerging group of botanists, ecologists and plant scientists who challenge us to stop looking at plants as mere green background, and to think of them instead as persons – intelligent living beings who just might have something to teach us.