Green growing plants keep us alive. They are our neighbors, our plant communities. Do you know them? The trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers, and ground dwellers that form the community of life around you? Can you call your plant neighbors by name?
Years ago we camped at Great Basin N.P. The first morning went like this: “…We tag along with our naturalist/biologist to learn the names of plants and animals and why they are here. Don shows us how to use pocket field guides. We identify yellow monkey flower that drapes the creek bank. Next we find yarrow, larkspur, Indian paintbrush, and a straggly scarlet gilia…Don points out major plant communities: Valley sagebrush grows uninterruptedly from basin to foothills and threads into the mountain forest…Riparian plants, the water–loving plants along the creek banks, include roses, wildflowers, and the quaking aspen that shiver in the breeze…the belt of Ponderosa pine dominates the upper slopes all the way to timberline. Lower down it’s drier, and the forest shifts into a mix of juniper and piñon pine that mingles with mountain mahogany…Wildlife thrives around us. A chipmunk family lives near our camp table, which is no doubt a steady food supply for the little bandits. Birds and deer wander through camp. Interwoven lives of plants and animals make this community what it is. It’s good to know our neighbors; it makes us feel at home.”** (Beaver Park, p. 19)
Where do you live? Oak Woodland? Tallgrass prairie? Ponderosa Parkland? Lodgepole Pine Forest? High desert? Savannah? Wetlands? Your local plant community is your life support system. Why is this important? Plants stabilize the earth, build soil, provide food for us and other animals, soak up carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, provide cover for animals, provide habitat, ameliorate the climate, clean the air, I could go on…
Knowing your plant neighbors will make you feel at home and part of your eco-community, your life community. Life nurtures life. We are part of that life. We can ignore that fact or we can contribute to the common good. We can destroy or we can nurture the plant neighbors that keep us alive. Before we once again neglect, pave over, bulldoze, litter, poison, or dig up green plants, let us remember the gift from God:“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” (Gen 1:29-30)
The earth needs all the help it can get right now. For our own benefit and the health of our native vegetation, let’s restore, replace, renew, replant, preserve, re-seed, and re-create the vast garden that once covered the earth. Cherish the Earth. It’s our home.
**Excerpt from The Road to Beaver Park, Painting, Perception, and Pilgrimage, J. E. Kirk (Resource Pub., Wipf & Stock: 2016) (Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie booksellers)