Plants as Teachers and Witnesses

One plant biologist reflects on seasonal re-pacing in a culture of constant action, as a gift learned from her study subjects.

Biology Botany Natural History

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January-February 2021

Volume 109, Number 1
Page 38

DOI: 10.1511/2021.109.1.38

Last winter, I visited McLeod Plantation Historic Site on James Island in South Carolina. When my family and I arrived at the McLeod site, the day was overcast and we could smell rain in the air.

  • Studying how trees adapt to the seasons teaches lessons about the importance of anticipation, appropriate response, and bearing witness. Humans likewise have seasonal shifts.
  • Modern humans’ capacity for constant action and overworking can be balanced with season informed, survival-enhancing behaviors, such as measured engagement in work and regular periods of rest.
  • For deciduous trees, spring demands a burst of action, summer requires focused productivity, fall is a transition in anticipation of rest, and winter is a time of pause. We must honor these natural cycles to thrive.
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