All Life Depends on Plants


Mel enjoying a bed of Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, a common weed and most useful plant
Plants and humans need sunshine, but only plants can use that sunshine to make their own food and convert the solar energy into useful forms for itself.

I was visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden a few years back when I purchased a t-shirt that said "All Life Depends on Plants". Of course it does! On the surface, I thought of how we as humans use plants for food, shelter, medicine, clothing etc. That's what we are always taught. It wasn't until the long drive home when my mind began to wander and think deeper about the phrase. The world would survive and go on without humans, but how would the world continue without plants? What are all of the organisms that rely on plants to grow, reproduce, or simply live. This is a serious issue, and one that is in need of urgent action. I hope that I am not the first to bring this to anyone's attention.


I was working as a Botany Lab Manager at that time. I was responsible for a display case located outside of the botany lab classroom. I used the t-shirt I bought as a prop, with the title of this display as "Ethnobotany". I began to fill the case with ways that life does depend on plants, and our relationship as humans with plants, as well as animals, insects, and soil. It was FULL. And there was still more information that could have been added. There was a lot of conversations around the topic. A Microbiologist began the discussion about how microbes don't depend on plants, and how they could survive without them. Its well known that plants grow better with increased microorganisms in the soil. It has been shown that the rhizosphere (area surrounding plant roots in the soil) have higher numbers of beneficial bacteria. I asked myself, what if there weren't any plant roots, where else would the microbial material gather or thrive? Some would think that a virus doesn't need a plant, but as viruses and diseases go, they need the virus (pathogen), the right environment, and a host. Still so many questions and so much to learn.


It's not as simple as saying all life depends on plants and not thinking any further about it. I have dedicated my life to growing plants. Part of the reason is because I am fascinated with the plant world, I enjoy learning more about plants and our relationship with them, but there is another reason. I know that all is right when I am surrounded by the essence of green beings, continue to be driven by the magic of the unseen, and believe in plant spirits. I studied horticulture because it is described as the "art and science of growing plants". Somewhere, the word "spirit" needs to be included. Meet any fairy, and you'll understand.