Human Flower Project


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Youths Choose Tech over Scent

What would you sacrifice for your cell phone? What have you already sacrificed?


Taking a break from texting, for roses and alyssum

How do you “connect” with a lilac?

We’ve just discovered a multi-national marketing study finding that a majority of 16-22 year olds would rather lose their sense of smell than give up their cell phones and other social networking devices.

The research, carried out by McCann Worldgroup, polled youths in the U.S., United Kingdom, Spain, China, India, Brazil and Mexico using some kind of random sampling, then followed up with qualitative research in 17 countries. (You’ll note that France wasn’t included.)

“While technology has often been referred to in jest as an appendage of today’s youth, over half (53%) of 16-22 year olds said they would rather give up their sense of smell than give up their technology.  For this generation, technology is not an add-on.  It is a tool that enables them to sense the world and make sense of the world.”

What is cantaloupe or a pine tree, or, surely, sweet alyssum? How do you “make sense” of b.o. without a sense of smell?

McCann studied 7000 16-30 year olds in April 2011. Along with their shocking finding about the strong attachment to gadgetry, the researchers conclude that the young most prize “Justice” and “Truth,” and see themselves are reliable arbiters of both. How does one know the “truth” about whether spring has arrived, or the bread’s ready, or the house is on fire?

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Posted by Julie on 12/08 at 11:32 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietySciencePermalink

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Plant-Wise Tactic for Teachers

The U.S. Botanic Garden supplies an exercise in introspection, observation and botanical education—a way to keep minds green between now and the holidays.


Find a partner, choose a plant and let the learning begin

The Garden of Health,Antwerp 1533

Image: via metahistory

Classroom teachers limping to the red velvet rope of Christmas holidays may need some oxygen about now, and assignments.

We offer this simple but interesting idea supplied by the U.S. Botanic Garden: “Are Plants Like Us?”

The six-page handout opens with a “family tree of plants” we found intriguing. To discover carrots and ginseng were botanical neighbors was not a surprise, but carnations and beets? Amaryllis and onions? Learning that these ornamental plants and vegetables were near relatives, we began to think about some of their common characteristics, like the leaf shape of begonias and cucumbers, the bulbs of onions and amaryllis. (It’s encouraging to think there’s an intuitive side of botany.)

The pamphlet then sends students out among plants with a partner, to consider how plants and people are alike and how they differ, and to examine the peculiarities of epiphytes and desert plants.

One part of the assignment asks, “What can plants do that people can’t do?” As recommended, it’s best to have a particular species in mind. Some plants, people too, can spend the winter out of doors, Some can’t. Same with refraining from gossip.

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Posted by Julie on 11/28 at 06:21 PM
Gardening & LandscapeSciencePermalink

Monday, August 08, 2011

Torreya taxifolia: Seeing Is Inciting

Some plants are worthy of a pilgrimage. And as any pilgrim will tell you, such journeys have a way of changing one’s view of the world.

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

imageSurviving native range of Torreya taxifolia in northwestern Florida

Map: The Torreya Guardians

The month is August. It’s sunny and nearly 100° Fahrenheit outside, with 92% relative humidity. We have journeyed by pick-up truck to sparsely populated northwest Florida, near the small city of Bristol, to an area long ago claimed to be the site of the Garden of Eden by one Elvy E. Callaway.

We have come for a live plant encounter with one of our nation’s most venerable, rare, and critically endangered species, Torreya taxifolia, commonly called the Torreya tree (pronounced tor-REY’-ah).  Only about 500 specimens of this tree, a conifer and primitive member of the yew family, are estimated to be left in the wild, and this is the best place in the world to see some.

Having survived over 100 million years, according to the plant fossil record, the Torreya tree is now teetering on the edge of extinction. (The aforementioned Mr. Callaway thought this tree was the biblical gopher wood tree used to build Noah’s Ark—hence his Garden of Eden claim.)

It should be noted that the tree’s namesake is the famous American botanist John Torrey (1796-1873).  His eponymous genus, Torreya, has six species—but Torreya taxifolia is by far the rarest.  All six species are small-to medium-sized evergreen trees, ranging from 15 ft. to 60 ft. in height when mature.  Torrey is also honored today through the famous Torrey Botanic Society Journal and the renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course near San Diego, California.

The trees we visited were growing inside Torreya State Park, a 12,000-acre Florida State Park which lies along the Apalachicola River. It cost us only $3 to enter the park,  a well maintained, lush, and serenely beautiful area.

We found that few park visitors come here specifically to see the Torreya trees. Surprisingly, our analysis of 276 of the most recent handwritten, spontaneous visitor comments in the park’s guestbook uncovered no comments written specifically about the Torreya trees!

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Posted by Julie on 08/08 at 09:37 PM
EcologyGardening & LandscapeScienceTravelPermalink

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A Floral Guide for Science Teachers

Lesson plans are now in the works. And just in time, thanks to a student at Mississippi State, we offer an updated guide for using this website in the classroom.


Teacher Judy Baxter of Hahira, Georgia, uses her laptop for a class on Leucojum (snowflakes).

Photo: Judy Baxter/Old Shoe Woman

School hasn’t even begun but we already feel that Human Flower Project has gone to the head of the class!

Thanks to Mauriesa Johnson of Mississippi State University and the Earth*Scholars, we can gratefully offer a Science Teacher’s Guide to all seven years of this website.  This means that teachers have easy access to 269 illustrated essays on a wild (and domesticated) array of topics, all succinctly categorized and summarized.

Geography teachers, are you planning to study Iceland or Hungary? Just search for these nation’s names (or others that interest you) in the file and discover our stories about invasive species and an ongoing controversy over genetically modified plants.

Preparing a unit on conservation? The HFP archive includes nine stories that should be on target, with examples from Idaho to India. Other topics we’ve covered pretty extensively include flowers in medicine, food, ethics, and ecology. But see for yourself:

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Posted by Julie on 08/03 at 02:21 PM
Art & MediaSciencePermalink
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