Pop quiz: Can you name three plants you encountered today? Greenery makes for a beautiful backdrop at home and during strolls through the park and neighborhood, but there's another reason why scientists want you to be more in tune with your surroundings.

By Dan Nosowitz

It's common to feel reinvigorated after spending time outdoors (some doctors even prescribe nature to patients!) but in reality, many of us don't actually notice the specific plants and trees that make us feel so good.

This phenomenon called plant blindness refers to a human tendency to ignore plants. We might give animals a name, focus on them, remember them, distinguish between them. But plants? To humans, plants can end up looking pretty much the same and can be forgotten. And they shouldn’t be, because noticing and concentrating on plant life can be good for everyone.

Plant blindness is something scientists and activists worry a lot about; it leads to negatives like less interest in food science, conservation, and the health of the environment. You can probably name four or five endangered animal species off the top of your head—the giant panda, rhinoceros, Monarch butterflies, California condor—but can you name a single endangered plant species?

stonecrop and dianthus in outdoor garden
Credit: Lynn Karlin Photography

The solutions to plant blindness mostly involve education and immersion: learning about and spending time among the plant life that’s so vital to our planet and our survival. But there are personal benefits to keeping plants in the front of your mind, too. Here are three ways plants can make you happier and healthier.

1. Plants Can Improve Your Mood

One study from 2012 found that the mere color green has a positive effect on psychological outlook—that it improves your mood. Many other studies found that green exercise, which basically means spending time in forests, improves both self-esteem and mood. We feel pretty strongly that plants act as a stress-reducer. There’s really no end to the studies showing that if you spend time with plants, your mood will lift.

2. Plants Can Boost Your Immune System

A team of Japanese researchers figured out that visiting forest parks can increase the human natural killer cell count. Natural killer cells operate independently, seeking out damaged or dangerous cells in the body, and more of them help out your immune system. A follow-up study found that this might be due to the essential oils released by trees. So the next time you're considering taking a walk through nature, go for it—spending time amongst the plants and trees can make you healthier.

3. Plants Can Improve Your Concentration 

One study found that spending time with plants, either indoors or outdoors, can increase your memory retention by up to 20 percent. That’s not an outlier, either: other studies have found that plants can boost your concentration, productivity, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Understanding just how plants can help you could be a first step to appreciating and understanding how vital plants are to the planet as a whole. Plus, learning more about plants will probably help you win trivia night.


Be the first to comment!