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: [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




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