The Year of the Plant: What can we learn from our leafy green friends?

By Rhonda Vohland, Australian Organic

The plant kingdom evolved long before humans came along and although they cannot speak, they have long been educators to us.

With the world facing challenging and unprecedented times, it’s easy to forget the simple things in life. But what does a plant know about human life?

Life has seasons. Plants know that the seasons come and go, and they adapt as required; understanding when to put all of their energy into growth, and when to quietly retreat and gather energy for the next season. Deciduous trees don’t lament their falling leaves, they willing relinquish them to the ground, knowing their will flourish again with new growth in spring. Let go of things that no longer serve you, to make way for new opportunities.

It’s great to flourish and flower, but don’t burn yourself out. Trees and plants don’t flower all year, but rather in seasonal bursts or when conditions are favourable. They understand that it takes a lot of energy to flower, and too much flowering will take valuable energy away from being strong and resilient. Pace yourself, and be patient.

Don’t get too set in your ways. Trees reach for the skies with their tall, strong trunks, but at the same time they understand the importance of being limber enough for when the storms come. Stand tall and be proud, and reach for the skies but don’t forget to be flexible. It is better to sway in the breeze than to be too rigid and get uprooted.

Be yourself. Cacti don’t grow in the ocean and seaweed doesn’t grow in the desert. But do the cacti and seaweed let it get them down? They know that not every situation and condition is going to suit them, and that finding where you flourish is the key to a longer life.

Life has stages, don’t rush them or wish them away. A tree sapling cannot support a heavy branch, nor can it fruit before it grows leaves. There’s a process, and it takes time. Try not to skip ahead of the process, as you may miss a vital step for building your strength along the way.

Don’t live beyond your means. Life’s resources are not unlimited. Plants produce new leaves according to the availability of resources and seasons. Plants know that they cannot keep every leaf ever grown, and that there is a limit to what their roots can support. They don’t produce more leaves than they can sustainably feed, as they understand that the health of the whole plant will suffer. Be sustainable about your growth, and learn to how to gauge when your roots are at capacity.

Never stop growing and adapting. When a bigger leaf overshadows you, grow sideways. As the sun’s trajectory changes through the seasons, bend and move to catch the most light. Don’t stay where you are overshadowed, find a new path to the light and follow it.

You don’t have to compete or be the best to be happy. Orchids spend all year building up the energy to flower and then put everything into sending up one long gorgeous flower spike that is just breathtaking. Further over on a tree trunk, a stunning staghorn is quietly, slowly, growing another frond, knowing it will never flower. They are both beautiful and happy plants, content to be the way they were created.

These are just some of the lessons we can learn from plants, but there are so many more. The next time you go for a walk through your local park, take a moment to appreciate the beauty and diversity of our flora, and the silent lessons it provides.

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