Human Flower Project
Friday, November 06, 2009
Auto Plants and Human Butterflies
In the greener-than-thou competition for car buyers, Toyota heaps on the blooms.
Humble cherry sage (salvia greggii) is part of a global car marketing scheme
Photo: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Flowers are for suckers.
Truly. What we’ve tried to disclose over the past 5+ years is how people use flowers to wheedle, honor, evade, and rectify in cultures all over the world. And since in so many respects “culture” is dwindling to mean Varieties of Marketing Experience, we’re not surprised that flower customs increasingly amount to minor publicity stunts.
The latest is Toyota’s. Last week a story appeared in Drive.com (an Australian website for autophiles), that the car company had successfully introduced two plant species “specially developed for the grounds of Toyota’s Prius plant in Toyota City, Japan.” The new-new varieties were a salvia greggii (a.k.a. cherry sage) that could “better absorb nitrogen oxides” from the air and a gardenia that sweated enough water vapor to lower ambient temperature.
“When planted in large beds surrounding the Prius factory in Toyota City, the gardenias can make enough of a difference that the company can use less energy to run air conditioning to cool the factory,” wrote Green Car Advisor, one of many websites and newspapers (including the New York Times) that subsequently picked up the jolly generality-filled story.
Without calling Toyota’s two new plants a “petal-screen,” the Times did note: “Some people have said that the Prius loses most of its environmental cred when the hybrid’s manufacturing process is taken into account. Toyota acknowledges that Prius production is more carbon dioxide heavy than that of gas-engine cars.” Could it be that just like flowers in old-time funerals, these sages and gardenias were planted in the press to cover the stink of controversy?