The power of house plants

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Make like a tree and flourish unsplash

Weeding out the myth about air purification

In 2014 I was in Belize helping build a hurricane shelter. While there, we met a local of Mayan ancestry who showed us several native plants that were growing wild in his backyard: a cacao tree, coffee plant, and many coconuts and calabash fruit. He explained to us how he built the roof of his wooden home from the plants of the jungle. The hut-like structure had one open room with a table in the middle and a wood-fuelled clay oven with an opening in the front for adding more logs.

While running through the jungle can be a disastrous decision for a number of reasons, our guide noted to us that there is a specific kind of plant that grows upward using the trees around it and extends a net-like curtain of vines that are as sharp as razor blades.

Although I prefer the safety of Canada, owning my own tropical plants has helped my mind wander back to Belize. 

I am sure that anyone else who travels and loves plants could say there is a specific kind that helps transport their mind elsewhere. Maybe maple leaves make you think of eastern Canada, or the smell of pine makes you think of your time westward or in northern Saskatchewan. Or perhaps a family member has a particular passion for plants. Many memories and emotions of ours can be linked to plants.

There is something special about this relationship we hold with plants. They can help us imagine, dream, see things differently, or perhaps it’s just the visual aspect that causes us to appreciate their presence.

Do we really own them, or do they own us?

For example, my typical morning involves a coffee and as I sit and look at my collection of plants, I find that I am naturally moved to water them. Perhaps we need to see electronics in our life as holding a similar power over us. Remove the item and the power it holds over your life is dispelled. 

Yet, it is easier said than done for some things and eliminating distractions might not be our life’s goal. For some, distractions are a coping mechanism, and taking care of plants can be exactly what we need to feel at peace.

Sometimes the simple act of potting a plant can focus one’s mind enough on the process that we forget for a moment the pressures of the world. Alternatively, sometimes these tasks provide the time for thought. We can be so busy with life that we forget to think deeply about who, what, and why we are the way we are.

The benefits of plants are multifoliate. 

Just over a year ago I was working at a local flower shop. I was told that certain plants like the snake plant in particular can actually help purify the air – so there I was, advertising the amazing air-purifying benefits of the snake plant. Little did I know, this belief would be overturned and labeled a “myth” by scientists as noted by National Geographic.

They do still purify the air in some minute way, but the significance is now highly debatable. 

So while my plants will not be revolutionizing the air in my home, they will continue to inspire creativity, a connection to nature, and small acts of stewardship. 

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