The Year in Plants and Promises


Just about every news organization and industry does a year-end retrospective on happenings in various spheres—but it’s not only in the world of news and entertainment that important things happen. Nature, for instance, is never still and is, each year, as filled with drama, intrigue, wonder, gossip, back-stabbing, and phenomenon as anyone could wish. Add to that, that sometimes nature works hard to conceal its secrets, even to the point where some things are thought not to exist, only to burst through with a dramatic surprise, astounding in its beauty. There are yet more secrets to be revealed in time to come, but below are a few we’ve learned this past year.

Plants Talk – A Lot

Though some people have insisted for centuries that plants love to be spoken to, it’s only recently that science has produced a sort of confirmation. Not, perhaps, that plants listen to people talk—but that they speak to each other, in plant-type ways. The conspire, collaborate, fight wars (of sorts,) and have patterns of behavior when confronted with new or injurious plant species. Or, as in the case of trees, willows, sugar maples and poplars planted near each other warn one another of insect invasions and other needed information. View the entire PBS feature on this fascinating topic to see plants are chattering about in your garden.

An Orchid Thought Lost, Rediscovered

Considered one of the rarest species of orchid in the world, perhaps even an extinct one, Hochstetter’s  butterfly-orchid was mostly regulated to botany books. Until, that is, it was “rediscovered,” nestled on a hilltop in the Azores. This small orchid is not as showy as one’s most are familiar with— but its status as almost-mythological made sure its entrance took center stage this year.

If Omega-3 Fatty Acids Excite You…

You’ll love this next dramatic show. Peruvian farmer Rodriquez knew the plant he found might be special, due to its similarity to sachi ichi, another Omega-3 fatty acid bearing plant, but mostly he thought it would grow well in his garden. And so it did; the plant thrived and he and his family certainly enjoyed the large seeds it bore, perfect for roasting. The plant even produced enough for them to sell to others, the spreading the good benefits. What may have surprised Rodriquez, however, is the excitement of the scientists and ethobotanists who eventually learned of his find. The plant, which they named P. carolis-vegae, is an omega-3 fatty acid powerhouse, though studies are ongoing as to whether it’s beneficial effects can compete with fish oils. If so, and there is enough interest and will, the fact that it can be easily grown (along with sacha ichi,) without tearing down trees or clearing land makes it a perfect for a healthy, sustainable cash crop.

As you can see, nature (and its lovers) have had quite an exciting time this year—and these three examples don’t even scratch the surface. The new year will likely bring more discoveries, more ways for us to both make use of, and protect, nature and the environment—and to share in its bounty and beauty.