A Cure for Plant Blindness


Key Points

We’re fully dependent on corn, 69% of the carbon in ones own body can be traced directly to the corn products that we eat. We’re dependent on corn and corn is dependent on us.
Wheat, rice and corn make up of 42% of the worlds calorie requirements.
The other 58% of the worlds calorie requirements are made up of roughly only 30 plants –  our diet is not diverse. What about all the other plants we’re ignorant to?
Irish potato famine, causing the death of a million people and the immigration of another million people, cutting the population by 25%. I recently visited Ellis Island in New York, this island was breathtaking and conveyed hope and prospect of new beginnings to the Irish immigrants who came over. 
Great american corn famine – that did not happen – in 1971. A fungus disease destroyed all the corn, luckily plant scientists got their act together and resolved the issue so the next year we had enough corn that we needed to survive. If plant scientists hadn’t resolved the issue could we have had a similar disaster to that of the Irish potato famine?  If we do not continue botanical studies in universities will there be a plant scientist in the future to combat similar problems?
Over 50% of plant scientists working for American government will be retiring in 15 years, there is no plan to replace them.
Botany used to be in the school curriculum, on a fairly technical level. Collecting plants, learning the technical names, making specimens and they took an exam at the end of the year. High school no longer contains any botany, apart from a small amount on photosynthesis. And why? Because the teachers themselves are not educated, there is no botany being taught in colleges and universities are reducing the number of botany courses. How can we get children interested in botany?
Botany and biology are being combined. Is botany not a large enough topic on its own?
The royal botanic societies membership peaked in 1975. #Iamabotanist
There is no charisma in botany. How can I as an illustrator give plants and flowers charisma?
Chia Pets, introduce children to plants growing.
Leaf Snap, a free app which through shape recognition recognises plants and gives you information.  – http://www.nhm.ac.uk/take-part/identify-nature/leafsnap-uk-app.html
Have you thanked a green plant today? The green world and man cannot get along without each other. The more this vital link is realised today, the better our world can be.



TEDx Talks, 2014, A Cure for Plant Blindness | Margaret Conover | TEDxSBU, Online Video, 17 December 2014, Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUzrRo1T274, Accessed: 31 January 2017.



Plant Blindness

Plant blindness is the official term coined by Wandersee and Schussler in 1998, “the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment, leading to the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs.” Plant blindness also comprises an “inability to appreciate the aesthetic and unique biological features” of plants and “the misguided, anthropocentric ranking of plants as inferior to animals, leading to the erroneous conclusion that they are unworthy of human consideration.” (Allen, 2003)

Wandersee and Schussler suggested “that because plants generally do not move, grow close together, and often have uniform colour, they blend together visually and thus are simply not seen.” (2001) Plants are simply easy to ignore unless they are in full bloom. Meaning winter months, people ignore plants and flowers altogether.

Wandersee and Schussler aim to give young people experience in growing plants, and they praise the role of botanical gardens in public education about the role of the plant world. “Our research has shown that having a plant mentor in one’s life makes a pivotal difference in whether one notices, appreciates, seeks to understand, and cultivates plants,” Wandersee says. “Without informal and formal horticultural and botanical education—such as mentors and botanical gardens provide—one is not likely to care about plants or to realise that all life depends on plants.”

“Plants need to be seen, again, as the vitally important elements in our ecosystem that clothe us, feed us, give us the oxygen that we breathe and the medicines that cure us. They need to be understood to be the carbon sinks that will allow us to reduce global warming, controllers of the impacts of drought and maintainers of fresh water supplies. They need to be seen as the complex living organisms, in their myriad of forms, which they truly are. Plants need to become valued again, elevated from their throwaway, second class status and be put back into the limelight – stolen from them by the furniture (or lions). We need to find a cure for plant blindness, and quickly, because if we don’t, it won’t just be horticulture facing a crisis.”
– Robbie Blackhall-Miles, 2015


Balding, M. and Williams, K. J.H., 2016, Plant blindness and the implications for plant conservation. Conservation Biology, 30: 1192–1199. doi:10.1111/cobi.12738

Robbie Blackhall-Miles. 2015. We need a cure for plant blindness. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2015/sep/17/we-need-a-cure-for-plant-blindness. [Accessed 27 January 2017].

Wandersee, J. H. and Schussler, E.E., 2001, Toward a theory of plant blindness, Plant Science Bulletin 47:27

William, A., Plant Blindness, BioScience 2003; 53 (10): 926. doi: 10.1641/0006-3568(2003)053[0926:PB]2.0.CO;2



Brain dump



Prevent soil erosion


Food is the prime importance for plants


Their presence is inevitable for clean air, food and water

They are the starting point of all food chains
Compared to animals, plants receive very little attention
People barely notice plants

Plant Blindness

Plants contribute to our economy
Gaseous balance
First living organism born on earth
Share DNA

Convey feelings

Exhibition planning

27 days
4 weeks
0 months
648 hours
38880 minutes
2332800 seconds and counting…

Until Exploration of Experimentation!
The exhibition has started to take shape.

After a long discussion and lots of poster variations, we have gone ahead with a very simple pleasing poster designed by Damyon Garrity. The poster gives everyone an equal opportunity to have their work seen and also Damyon has created a fantastic 3D alternative.
A catalogue is being created by Katie Laura J, everyone will be having a single page with an image and 50-100 words describing their SciArt project.

Abi Knott & Mick Jongeling have volunteered to liaise with Making our futures and Digital Futures to curate a lovely exhibition space.

Facebook Event
I am in charge of the fb event page and aim to post an image a day of students work along with an optional story. A .gif will also we pinned to the top of the page, showcasing everyones work.

Eventbrite Event
Damyon Garrity has created the Eventbrite page and will be emailing this invitation to potential employers!

Pressing matter

Initially, I decided to capture flowers and leaves in their natural form by using natural methods via photography, illustration, cyanotypes and this method; which was me pressing the leaves into wet clay to capture the intricate patterns and shapes.
As you can imagine it’s quite difficult to take images of the clay as they’re delicate and quite soft patterns and all development images have been lost after posting my phone to Australia via the loo. But heres a few images to show the results!

This was a good experiment to play with what would happen, but for me the outcome as delicate and pretty in real life as they are, are not strong enough visually.

Rachel Dein, is a prime example of how pressing flowers can be done in a very beautiful successful way, with time and the right equipment. “Rachel Dein makes plaster casts of plants and flowers that record all their texture, pattern, and delicacy in exquisite details. Her composition can be as simple as a single stem or as complex as a field of wildflowers, leaves, and grasses. Pendulous bleeding hearts, curly fiddleheads of ferns, and wispy poppies are some of her favourite flowers to cast.”

Dein creates a framed clay square and arranges her plants and flowers on top, she presses them in to the clay leaving an imprint and then removes the flowers and plants. Leaving the clay to dry, she then fills the frame with plaster to capture the imprints. Once the plaster has dried, she removes the clay and the end results are beautiful! More examples of her work can be found online.


The area I think my exhibition will focus on is Ethnobotany, the relationship between plants and people. I find it fascinating how plants and humans are so interconnected, ‘Trees provide materials for houses; plants provide materials for clothes; and both animals and plants provide us with food. Life is supported by myriad of living things on Earth. The lives of those living things in turn are supported by other living things. Life on this planet is endlessly interconnected.’
  1. the scientific study of the traditional knowledge and customs of a people concerning plants and their medical, religious, and other uses.


Artificial Nature


  1. Made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural.

  1. The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.

Pressed Flowers

As soon as I chose Botany as my subject to specialise in, I decided to press flowers. Pressing flowers via the traditional methods takes around 2/3 weeks, below is a collection of flowers and plants pressed over the last couple of months.

My personal favourite is the blue flowers, which is quite unusual as this is the only artificially dyed flower that I’ve pressed. Humans are always striving to make everything bolder, brighter and more aesthetically pleasing. Flowers are being altered by adding scent, changing the colours, removing pollen and creating flowers that grow in the dark! For further reading in to genetically modified plants read; http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/can-genetic-engineering-make-better-flowers

Botanical Installations, Part 2

Lives of Grass sculptures show the effects of transformation of the material as a metaphor of the transformation of the body. Time sculpts the forms, makes them change and then decay. – Mathilde Roussel

In Egyptian Mythology, Osiris is the God of renewal, the one who eternally comes back to life. He is also the personification of the fertile land and the natural cycles: death and rebirth, dryness and fertility. The natural world, ingested as food becomes a component of human being. These anthropomorphic and organic sculptures made of soil and wheat grass seeds strive to show that food, it’s origin, it’s transport, has an impact on us beyond it’s taste. The power inside it affects every organ of our body. Observing nature and being aware of what and how we eat might make us more sensitive to food cycles in the world – of abundance, of famine – and allows us to be physically, intellectually and spiritually connected to a global reality.


Eye Heart Spleen, is a delicate series of sculpted plants as part of a project by artist Camila Carlow. The photographic project is comprised of 13 images representing human organs constructed from plants and flowers. From Carlow’s statement about the project:

The most fascinating and intricate of biological structures, yet we rarely pay heed to the organs inside our body. Regardless of whether we fill ourselves with toxins or nourishing food, whether we exercise or not—our organs sustain us, working away effortlessly and unnoticed.

In a similar way, plants flourishing in the urban environment are a testament to nature’s indifference to our goings on. They grow out of the sides of buildings, in brick walls and between the cracks in concrete, despite of the traffic and pollution.

Camila Carlow is a Guatemalan-born artist based in Bristol, England, and she works in a range of mediums from photography and painting as well as cinematography.


Botanical Installations, Part 1

I am a huge fan of clever installations, and for that reason I can see my exhibition piece being of that nature. With that in mind I’ve researched into already existing installations…

Gregory Euclide is an artist and teacher living in the Minnesota River Valley. He challenges a traditional painting by breaking the boundaries of the picture frame and extending the landscape out in to an installation. He uses materials found from nature to create the installation pieces, ‘the work consists of several dioramas that are built from materials that were collected on walks as well as several paper casts from boulders in central park.’ (euclide, 2011)

The depiction of land has often been used as a means of celebrating or critiquing culture. The use of pastoral views, banal architecture and everyday trash problematize the traditional definitions of a natural landscape. Through the process of transforming and miniaturizing materials found in the land, objects, in their new context, are no longer discernible as natural or man-made. The juxtaposition of representational modes and materials create a hybrid space where the romanticized and actual intermingle. Contrasts between the flat, painted vistas and artifacts from the land expose the illusion of representation and subsequently confuse the pictorial space, calling into question the authenticity of the objects. The forms fracture the pictorial space, at times, inhabiting the frames, robbing them of their ability to define a single view and inviting a phenomenological exploration by the viewer.


held-within-what-hung-open-and-made-to-lie-without-escape-15aimg_5691– http://www.gregoryeuclide.com/

Living Room is a living art installation designed by Hannah Chalew. The artist created living works of art using chickenwire, a variety of used furniture frames, soil and living plants. Some of the plants she weaved together were, Ipomoea alba, Ficus pumila, the fragrant Trachelospermum jasminoides and various weeds. The art work was displayed in 2013 at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans. Below is the installation along with the concept drawing for the Living Room installation.



The Floating Flower Garden is an immersive, interactive installation of blossoming vegetation. Visitors enter a room filled with floating flowers. But as you approach them the flowers rise into the air, creating an air bubble within the dense forest. Multiple visitors can move through the installation at once as the flowers move away from them and surround them. “In this interactive floating flower garden viewers are immersed in flowers, and become completely one with the garden itself.” Floating Flower Garden is the latest installation by TeamLab, a Japanese art collective of “ultra-technologists” lead by Toshiyuki Inoko.