Plant Humanities Glossary | January - May 2021

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“As living species, though plants can’t move and talk, they have still held unparalleled significance for human cultures. Plants are not only biological but cultural. The study of plants through the scope of plant humanities can allow me as a spatial historian to better understand the hybrid meanings of plants and to recognize them as material, symbol, system, and spatial matrix.

The Plant Humanities, a subset of environmental humanities, has been part of “the greening of the humanities” movement since the 1990s. However, plant humanities as a discursive term is quite recent (starting from the Dumbarton Oak’s Plant Humanities Initiative in 2018) for the reassessment of written histories and the appreciation of indispensable roles of plants to human cultures and societal situations. Therefore, this Plant Humanities Glossary aims to trace and re-identify environmental humanities keywords through the scope of plant humanities, interrogating the concurrent narratives and methods of spatial history under the umbrella of Anthropocene discussions.”

This glossary collects existing plant-related arguments to clarify how plant humanities has gradually emerged from the discourse of environmental humanities as a burgeoning independent field in recent years. This glossary also reinterprets selected discursive keywords from environmental humanities with a new focus on the plant humanities. In addition to foundational environmental humanities vocabularies, this alphabetical glossary suggests two trajectories that worth further exploring in the plant humanities study, neo-materialism and the theory/history of modern landscape architecture.

The modern and post-modern environmental aesthetic conception encourages hybrid and flexible understandings of the human spatial history, through which marginalized spaces and objects are treasured, such as the wastelands and weeds. The notion of aesthetic is also closely entangled with the awareness of ethics, highlighting the active role of plant species to human cultures. Aesthetic practices change over time, as values about objects, such as plants/weeds, change.

Date introduced: the 19th century
Date prevalent: the mid-19th century (humanities); the 1970s (designed environments) –

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Dewey, John. Art As Experience. New York: Minton, Balch, 1934.
“Esthetic experience is a manifestation, a record and celebration of the life of a civilization, a means of promoting its development, and is also the ultimate judgement upon the quality of a civilization.” (Elizabeth K. Meyer paraphrases Dewey’s idea of aesthetic as “The art and science of sensory perception that can include the experience of the everyday as well as art/design.”)

Gandy, Matthew. “Marginalia: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Urban Wastelands.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 103, no. 6, 1 Nov. 2013, pp. 1301 – 1316.
Indeed, the independent dynamics of nature have been an increasingly significant element in alternative approaches to urban design since the 1970s that seek to combine the enhancement of biodiversity with a less regularized or formulaic aesthetic experience … Specific cultures of nature have emerged over time, along with their distinctive combinations of aesthetic sensibility and human subjectivity, culminating in an emphasis on a seminatural aesthetic linked to more polyvalent conceptions of public culture.

Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Oxford, UNITED STATES: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2014.
The adjective aesthetic, apart from its specialized uses in discussion of art and literature, is now in common use to refer to questions of visual appearance and effect. It is clear from this history that aesthetic, with its specialized references to ART (q.v.), to visual appearance, and to a category of what is ‘fine’ or ‘beautiful’, is a key formation in a group of meanings which at once emphasized and isolated subjective (q.v.) sense-activity as the basis of art and beauty as distinct, for example, from social or cultural interpretations.

Kuhn, Mary. “Garden Variety: Botany and Multiplicity In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Abolitionism.” American Literature: A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography, vol. 3, no. 3, 1 Sep. 2015, pp. 489 – 516.
In Dred and other writings, this challenge takes the form of a botanical aesthetic that encourages flexible, pluralistic, and nonhierarchical thinking.

Salomon, David. “Towards a New Infrastructure: Aesthetic Thinking, Synthetic Sensibilities.” JOURNAL OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, vol. 11, no. 2, 1 Jan. 2016, pp. 54 – 65.
Aesthetics is not defined here as being synonymous with style or visual appearance. Rather, it refers to a philosophical concept and intellectual practice in which physical sensations and intellectual reflection are reconciled via our imagination … Aesthetic practices like design are those that propose multiple ways of seeing and creating physical, social, or conceptual things.

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Arboretum is a landscape typology related to botanical gardens and parks. It is a large landscape of rare and valuable trees collected from other places—regionally or globally, and exhibited to the public. Arboretum is a physical epitome of the active role of plant species over human cultures, highlighting the socio-political and ethical values of living collections.

Date introduced: the early 19th century
Date prevalent: the 19th and early 20th centuries (establishment); the early 21 century (reflections through colonialism and Plant Humanities) –

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Elliott, Paul, Stephen Daniels, and Charles Watikins. “The Nottingham Arboretum (1852): Natural History, Leisure and Public Culture in a Victorian Regional Centre.” Urban History 35, no. 1 (2008): 48–71. doi:10.1017/S0963926807005172.
Arboretums are spaces intended for the growth and study of representative varieties of trees and shrubs and public arboretums were founded in a number of Victorian towns either as specialized forms of public park or spaces within larger parks. This reflected the British passion for tree collecting and landscape gardening as well as the drive for rational recreation and urban sanitary reform.

Elliott, Paul A., Charles Watkins and Stephen Daniels. The British Arboretum: Trees, Science and Culture In the Nineteenth Century. London: Pickering & Chatto Publishers, Limited, 2011.
By the mid-twentieth century the term arboretum was relatively commonplace. It referred to a place where collections of trees were grown and displayed systematically, sometimes planted according to botanical taxonomies, labelled and catalogued. For some, such as Evelyn Waugh, arboretums had become hackneyed; the quotation above describes an arboretum in the garden of a ‘large, requisitioned villa in a still desolate area of Essex’, in 1943. Here the term is consciously pompous and affected, describing the remnant of a small tree collection in the garden of a modest house; but as we have seen, in the nineteenth century arboretums were perceived as innovative and exciting places.

Blackwell, Deborah. “Arboretum Helps Design Students Focus on ‘Plant Blindness.’” Harvard Gazette (blog), February 19, 2019.
“One of the most important goals of the course is to break down the dangerous assumption that plants are an extension of the human condition — that we can relate to plants if we humanize them, make them seem like us or exist merely to serve us,” Friedman said. “The goal is for students to begin to meet plants on their terms and initiate a lifelong process of understanding these non-human living organisms through the repeated acts of observation and reflection. They are going to spend their professional lives doing things that involve the use of plants in design, but they don’t necessarily have a relationship with plants.” The course not only helps shape the careers of design students, but uses the Arboretum in a new way.

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Biodiversity considers every individual plant and requires you to cross scales, ranging from specimens to bioregions. Biodiversity suggests an active adaptation and is a bottom-up and self-organizing process.

Date introduced: 1985
Date prevalent: the late 1980s –

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Takacs, David. The Idea of Biodiversity :Philosophies of Paradise. Baltimore, 1996.
The term biodiversity serves biologists’ purposes better than wilderness … Wilson argues that “humanity needs an unending frontier, an ability of unlimited promise.” He declares that “biodiversity is the frontier of the future.” For Wilson, biodiversity is a vast wilderness, an uncharted, wondrous realm in which to indulge the human senses … Perhaps Noss is right: “Wilderness and biodiversity need each other” – both as concrete phenomena and rhetorical strategies.
Otherwise, these biologists use the term biodiversity to represent multiple levels of biological hierarchy – genes, populations, species, communities, ecosystems, as well as the interactions among levels, and the processes that have given rise to them.

Farina, Almo. Ecology, Cognition and Landscape: Linking Natural and Social Systems. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2009.
The conservation of biodiversity is not a matter of passive protection but a matter of active processes that allow the ecosystem to maintain an organization (order) during the dissipative reactions. Biodiversity cannot be protected, it can only be manipulated because biodiversity is the product of a process, and is not an entity per se.

Gandy, Matthew. “Marginalia: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Urban Wastelands.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 103, no. 6, 1 Nov. 2013, pp. 1301 – 1316.
Furthermore, as Takacs (1996) shows, the very idea of biodiversity is as much a mirror of entanglements between different cultural and scientific discourses than any putative representation of external nature. In an urban context, the concept of biodiversity becomes even more difficult to determine, especially when used in relation to wider conservation objectives such as the protection of rare species or vulnerable habitats. How, in other words, do we apply the concept of biodiversity to what Bernadette Lizet terms the “ordinary nature” encountered in cities?

Allaby, Michael. A Dictionary of Ecology. 5 ed. Oxford University Press, 2015.
A portmanteau term, which gained popularity in the late 1980s, used to describe all aspects of biological diversity, especially including species richness, ecosystem complexity, and genetic variation.

Pickett, Steward T., et al., ed. Science for the Sustainable City: Empirical Insights From the Baltimore School of Urban Ecology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.
Biodiversity: Short for biological diversity, which can include differences in genetics, species composition, or even the heterogeneity of ecological landscapes.

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Social and Historical Processes:
September 21–24, 1986: The National Forum on BioDiversity was held in Washington, D.C.
December 29, 1993: The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force.
December 22, 2010: The UN General Assembly declared 2011–20 the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.
April 21, 2012: The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in Panama City by 94 Governments.

Related Projects:
Seven Ponds Farm, VA, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, 1998-
Bordeaux Botanical Garden, La Bastide, Bordeaux, France, Mosbach Paysagistes, 2000-2002

Related Entries: ConservationEmergence/Complexity TheoryExtinctionGrowthUrban EcologyWilderness

External Links: Biodiversity (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Bioregion is about the kinship between human and nonhuman communities, one of which is the plant communities. Bioregionalism promotes an inhabiting attitude by which humans adapt themselves constantly to the changing biophysical environment in an appropriate way.

Date introduced: 1945
Date prevalent: the late 1970s – around the 2000s

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Haenke, David. “The North American Bioregional Congress.” Rediscovering The North American Vision (Summer 1983): 32.
“Bioregionalism” deals with the bioregion as a whole system comprised of a set of diverse, integrated natural sub-systems (atmospheric, hydrologic, biologic, geologic) run by ecological laws with which humans (as one species among many) must work in cooperation if there is to be a sustainable future. These laws form the basis for the design of all long-term human systems, economic, technological, agricultural, and political. Political ecology is the politics of bioregionalism.

Callenbach, Ernest. Ecology: A Pocket Guide, 1998.
A bioregion is a large geographic area where the native plants and animals, along with their environment are markedly different from those in adjoining areas. The bioregional perspective acknowledges human interconnections with their local environmental conditions and resources and runs counter to the current trend of globalization which is spreading Western consumer patterns worldwide.

Berg, Peter. Interviewed by Richard Evanoff, 1998.
Bioregionalism promotes an inhabiting attitude by which humans adapt themselves to the natural characteristics of a bioregion in an appropriate way. Rather than preventing people from entering certain areas, this approach argues for people interacting with their environment, which is broken down into zones – urban, suburban, rural and wilderness – that determine the level of interactivity. As a result of adopting this philosophy, one achieves “richness and authenticity.”

Buell, Lawrence. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U. S. and Beyond. Cambridge, UNITED STATES: Harvard University Press, 2001: 297.
Bioregionalism might be defined succinctly as an ethos and set of life practices directed toward achieving an ecologically sustainable coevolutionary symbiosis of human and nonhuman communities within a territory of limited magnitude whose borders may not be precisely specifiable but are conceived in terms of “natural” rather than jurisdictional units …. Bioregionalism seeks to make human community more self-consciously ecocentric than it has been in modern times but in such a way as to incorporate, not disallow, anthropocentric concerns.

Cusick, Christine. “Reinhabiting the Academy: Perspectives on Irish Environmental Criticism.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 40 (January 2, 2017): 72–93.
Bioregionalism, a philosophical framework for action … calls for a reinhabitation of place that relies on scientific understanding of local ecosystems, that maps boundaries based on watersheds rather than politics, and that encourages human communities to nurture their ecological and cultural embeddedness in local place. Moreover, bioregional thinking extends to acknowledge, in the spirit of one of its founding philosophers, Peter Berg, that even in our allegiance to and understanding of the natural sciences we are bound by cultural specificity and the limits of human perception … We cannot interrogate the human relationship to nonhuman nature without examining how each of these identity factors remind us what it is to be a situated human animal.

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Social and Historical Processes:
Late 1970s: Haenke and a small group of dedicated colleagues established the Ozark Area Community Congress (OACC).
May, 1984: The First North American Bioregional Congress was held near Kansas City, Missouri.
1988: David McCloskey, a Seattle University sociology professor, described the name Cascadia as a bioregion (Cascadia as “a land of falling waters”).

Related Projects:
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, ME, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, 2013 – 2016

Related Entries: ConservationEnvironmentalism, Green, MultispeciesUrban Nature

Circulation offers two reciprocal perspectives for the spatial study in terms of plant species. One cares about the physical transportation and distribution of global plants. While the other concerns the plant contributions to human cultures and knowledge systems.

Date introduced: around the millennium in relation to the neo-materialism study
Date prevalent: around the 2010s –

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Hartigan, John. “Plant Publics: Multispecies Relating in Spanish Botanical Gardens.” Anthropological Quarterly 88, no. 2 (2015): 481–507.
The concept of cultures of circulation initially referred to the consumption and redistribution of texts and images (Lee and LiPuma 2002), but it is quite easy to regard this phrase as including these institutions’ active circulation of plant materials, both as seed and full-plant specimens.

Bont, Raf de, and Jens Lachmund, eds. Spatializing the History of Ecology: Sites, Journeys, Mappings. Routledge Studies in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis, 2017.
A complementary theme that has emerged more recently on the agenda of the history of science is the “transfer” (Secord 2004) or “circulation” (Roberts 2009) of knowledge between places. This includes the forms of communication, encounters, and material exchange through which science travels at a virtually global scale.

Hutton, Jane Elizabeth. Reciprocal Landscapes: Stories of Material Movements. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, New York, NY: Routledge, 2020.
The notion of “circulation,” used to describe the flow of materials and money – like the concept of metabolism taken up by Justus von Leibig and Marx, discussed in the previous chapter – stemmed from early understandings of the human body … Through the nineteenth century, the notion of circulation was being used to describe urban conditions, from the movement of water for sanitary systems to the speed of traffic to the general organization of space …

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Climax Community
Climax community is the dynamic assemblage of characteristic plants in time.

Date introduced: the early 1900s
Date prevalent: the 20th century

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Clements, Frederic E. “Nature and Structure of the Climax.” Journal of Ecology 24, no. 1 (1936): 252–84.
The concept of the climax as a complex organism inseparably connected with its climate and often continental in extent. The climax constitutes the major unit of vegetation and as such forms the basis for the natural classification of plant communities. It is the climax community of a succession that terminates in the highest life-form possible in the climate concerned.

Whittaker, R. H. “A Consideration of Climax Theory: The Climax as a Population and Pattern.” Ecological Monographs 23, no. 1 (1953): 41–78.
The climax is a steady-state of community productivity, structure, and population, with the dynamic balance of its populations determined in relation to its site. The balance among populations shifts with change in environment, so that climax vegetation is a pattern of populations corresponding to the pattern of environmental gradients, and more or less diverse according to diversity of environments and kinds of populations in the pattern.

Farina, Almo. Ecology, Cognition and Landscape: Linking Natural and Social Systems. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2009.
For many decades, the dominance of the climax theory alone has restricted the role of spatial heterogeneity in the dynamics of plants. Today we can better understand the dynamics of plant assemblages from algae to redwoods … Dynamics allow plants to explore favorable habitats and to serve as involuntary engineers preparing the habitat for other species. That plant communities change species composition through time and that such communities can move around in a physical space are well documented.

Allaby, Michael. A Dictionary of Ecology. 5 ed. Oxford University Press, 2015.
The plants that inhabit an area within which the final stage of a succession has been reached. The community is self-perpetuating, except that changes may occur very slowly and over a time-scale that is extensive compared with the rapid and dramatic changes during the early stages of succession.

Pickett, Steward T., et al., ed. Science for the Sustainable City: Empirical Insights From the Baltimore School of Urban Ecology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.
Climax vegetation: A plant community that, by the process of natural succession, has reached a relatively steady state.
(Succession: The process of change over time in ecological communities. Although it was originally thought to proceed by a deterministic series of transitions, leading to a stable community, research has judged the process to be much more open-ended and probabilistic.)

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Social and Historical Processes:
1960 (issued) /1965 (revised): The United States Department of Agriculture developed the first Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
September 2020 – December 2020: A series of major wildfires cost huge damages on the Western United States.

Related Entries: BiodiversityEmergence/Complexity TheoryExtinctionGrowthInvasive/InvasionWilderness

Conservation, or biological conservation, concerns the maximum diversity and the genetic integrity within species. Conservation is not only about particular species. Rather, it is about what relationships and value systems between humans and nonhumans we should focus on.

Date introduced: around 1909 with particular reference to preservation of nature and wild places
Date clarified: 1978 (the term conservation biology and its conception confirmed as a new field)
Date prevalent: the late 1970s –

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Soulé, Michael E., and Bruce A. Wilcox, eds. Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary-Ecological Perspective. Sunderland, Mass: Sinauer Associates, 1980.
[Conservation] is up to science to spread the understanding that the choice is not between wild places or people. Rather, it is between a rich or an impoverished existence for Man.

Fiedler, Peggy L., and Subodh K. Jain, eds. Conservation Biology: The Theory and Practice of Nature Conservation, Preservation, and Management. New York: Chapman and Hall, 1992.
Conservation biology’s fulcrum of change and decision making balances the conservation, preservation, and management of nature with the inevitable homocentric development of our natural resources and the exploitation of nature.

Hamilton, Alan. Plant Conservation: An Ecosystem Approach. Routledge, 2013.
The term conservation has both active and passive meanings … Conservation in the active sense can be closely related to restoration, which involves extending efforts beyond just trying to protect those aspects of plant world that are of interest, to try to enhance their conservation worth. In a passive sense, the term conservation refers to actions beneficial for plant conservation carried out by people with conservation not, or only partly, in mind … A major aim in active plant conservation is to institutionalize the everyday activities of people in order to favor plant conservation in this passive way. In brief, conversation should be promoted as a culture. Plant conservation should not just be a crisis discipline, but also an aspiration in terms of how people normally behave.

Allaby, Michael. A Dictionary of Ecology. 5 ed. Oxford University Press, 2015.
The maintenance of environmental quality and resources or a particular balance among the species present in a given area. The resources may be physical (e.g. fossil fuels), biological (e.g. tropical forest), or cultural (e.g. ancient monuments) … This contrasts with the preservationist approach which, it is argued, protects species or landscapes without reference to natural change in living systems or to human requirements.

Heise, Ursula K., Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann, eds. The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.
… indigenous conservationists and restorationists tend to focus on sustaining particular plants and animals whose lives are entangled locally—and often over many generations—in ecological, cultural, and economic relationships with human societies and other nonhuman species.

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Social and Historical Processes:
October 5, 1948: the establishment of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature.
1978: “The First International Conference on Research in Conservation Biology” held at the University of California.
1980: IUCN – in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – published the World Conservation Strategy.
1984: IUCN and WWF jointly launched a Plant Conservation Campaign and Programme – ‘To save the plants that save us.’
1999: the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) was launched as a program of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity.

Related Projects:
Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne, Australia, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, 2006-2012.
Orongo Station Conservation Master Plan, Poverty Bay, New Zealand, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, 2002 – 2012.
Jardi Botanic de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, Carles Ferrater (project leader), 1999.

Related Project Types: Botanic Gardens; US National Parks

Related Entries: BiodiversityBioregionEnvironmentalismExtinctionInvasive/InvasionMultispeciesWilderness

Material ecocriticism, a branch of ecocriticism, interrogates how human and nonhuman agencies – such as plant species – exchange energy, matter, and information. Ecocriticism understands, emphasizes, and even amplifies the natural-cultural interactions, recognizing a specific plant as a narrative text.

Date introduced: 1978
Date prevalent: the late 1980s – mid-1990s; around 2015 –

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Parini, Jay. “The Greening of the Humanities: Deconstruction Is Compost. Environmental Studies Is the Academic Field of the 90s.” New York Times. 1995, sec. Magazine.
“Let’s just say there is such a thing as ecocriticism,” [Professor Lawrence Buell] said. “We’ve gotten used to character, theme and plot; it’s the sense of place that is ignored and slighted. The ecocritics are trying to remedy that.”

Bergthaller, Hannes, et al. “Mapping Common Ground: Ecocriticism, Environmental History, and the Environmental Humanities.” Environmental Humanities 5, no. 1 (2014): 261–76.
Ecocritics contiune to invoke the virtues of interdisciplinary research, but the invoking has always been somewhat ritual in character and, when it comes to conducting the actual research, the execution is rather limited…

Iovino, Serenella, and Serpil Oppermann, eds. Material Ecocriticism. Bloomington, UNITED STATES: Indiana University Press, 2014.
material ecocriticism examines matter both in texts and as a text, trying to shed light on the way bodily natures and discursive forces express their interaction whether in representations or in their concrete reality … Material ecocriticism is a way to give the adjective “narrative” a more ontologically complex meaning … Material ecocriticism adds expressive creativity to the list of capacities, to consider anew the process of reenchantment … Material ecocriticism is not about the replacement of a false ontology with a true one— rather, it offers a redescription of the world from a new observer position.

Iovino, Serenella. “(Material) Ecocriticism.” In Posthuman Glossary, edited by Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova, 112–5. London Oxford New York New Delhi Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.
… ecocriticism is an incitement to consider ‘culture’ not as apart from ‘nature’, but to see nature and culture, world and text, as mutually permeable … ecocriticism invites us to see how world and texts are connected, how they meet and eventually combine … ‘Material relationships’ refers here not to the mere materiality of substances, processes and things, but to the entanglements of bodily and discursive relationships that constitute our life, both socially and biologically.

Ryan, John Charles. Plants in Contemporary Poetry: Ecocriticism and the Botanical Imagination. New York: Routledge, 2018.
As a botanically-oriented mode of ecocriticism, phytocriticism “lets plants maintain their otherness, respecting the uniqueness of their existence” … phytocritical practice and theory could combine effectively with developments in plant ethics … A phytocritical outlook emphasizes the agencies of botanical beings in poetic texts and considers how plants are rendered, evoked, mediated, or brought to life in and through language.

Clark, Timothy, ed. “Material Ecocriticism.” In The Value of Ecocriticism, 111–36. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.
Material ecocriticism, by contrast, is seen as a form of what Colebrook nicknames ‘ultrahumanism’. This attributes ‘all the qualities once assigned to man – qualities such as mindfulness, connectedness, self- organizing dynamism – to some supposedly benevolent life in general that needs to be saved from the death of merely calculative systems’.

Slovic, Scott, Swarnalatha Rangarajan, and Vidya Sarveswaran, eds. Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication. Routledge International Handbooks. Abingdon, Oxon, New York, NY: Routledge, 2019.
At the heart of the ecocritical enterprise, some would argue, is the effort to understand the place of human beings and human society in relation to the more-than-human world—many will recall Cheryll Glotfelty’s foundational definition of ecocriticism as “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment” (1996: xviii) … material ecocriticism takes a step further and declares that all agentic entities are expressive and have the ability to communicate intelligibly with other entities around them and with their immediate environments.

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Emergence/Complexity Theory
Emergence/Complexity Theory attributes the unpredictable emergence of a complex biophysical environment to interactions between each engaged species, in which every individual plant matters. It is not about size but a multiplicity of interrelated connections and catalyzation.

Date introduced: around the 1970s
Date prevalent: the late 20th century –

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Berrizbietia, Anita. “Scales of Undecidability.” In Case: Downsview Park Toronto, edited by Julia Czerniak, 116–25. Munich, c2001.
Emergence describes not only the adaptive measures of the components of a system but the behavior of the systems as a whole, as each component reacts to it in its own way to the introduction of change into the system.

G. Green, David, Nicholas Klomp, Glyn Rimmington, and Suzanne Sadedin, eds. Complexity in Landscape Ecology. Landscape Series. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2006.
Emergence takes many forms. A forest emerges from the interactions of millions of individual plants, animals and microbes with each other and with the landscape. A forest fire emerges from the spread of ignitions from one plant to another … To understand complexity in ecosystems, we need to learn how large-scale properties like these emerge from interactions between individuals.

Reed, Chris, and Nina-Marie E. Lister, eds. Projective Ecologies. Cambridge, Massachusetts, New York, New York: Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Actar Publishers, 2014.
Emergence is a phenomenon characteristic of complex systems and, in particular, of patterns observed in nature through the study of biology and ecology – patterns that arise through the collective actions of many individual entities and a multiplicity of their interactions. (NML)

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Environmental History
Environmental history recognizes the plant as a relative agency for the creation of social history, understanding the emergence and evolvement of human cultures through the eye of plants. “Hybridity” is now a defining idea in the field of environmental history.

Date introduced: during the 1960s and 1970s
Date prevalent: around the 1970s –

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Sutter, Paul S. “The World with Us: The State of American Environmental History.” The Journal of American History 100, no. 1 (2013): 94–119.
As environmental historians have dissected nature, so have they rethought agency and, in doing so, have been part of a growing impulse within the historical profession. “Agency” often has functioned for environmental historians as an attention-getting metaphor, a gesture at their affinity for the expansive logic of social history. But use of the concept has also stunted efforts to show the diverse qualities of nonhuman forces at play in history as well as the difficulties that arise in conceptually separating the human from the nonhuman.

Heise, Ursula K., Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann, eds. The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.
Environmental history was a product of the modern environmental movement … from the outset the field was founded upon two substantially different approaches. The first based itself on the postwar concept of systems and was strongly influenced by sociological functionalism and ecosystem ecology. Taking the social and natural worlds as relatively self-contained but overlapping and interactive systems, the first generation of environmental historians tracked how the social and ecological worlds influenced one another … The other approach was neo-Darwinian at its core, and focused on the relative adaptability of peoples, plants, and animals to new environmental conditions.

Hersey, Mark D., and Stephen Brain. “Editors’ Introduction.” Environmental History, Reflections: Environmental History in the Era of COVID-19, 25, no. 4 (October 1, 2020): 596.
… a central insight of environmental history: that the human and nonhuman worlds are inextricably linked and that we ignore this linkage at our peril.

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Social and Historical Processes:
1977: John Opie founded the American Society for Environmental History.
March 1990: The Journal of American History round table on environmental history.

Related Projects:
Plant Humanities Initiative, Dumbarton Oaks, September 2018-
“Black Botany: The Nature of Black Experience” online exhibition, New York Botanical Garden, 2021

Related Entries: CirculationEcocriticism/EcocriticsMultispecies

Environmentalism concerns plant ethics in designed environments, dealing with a collection of contradictions and misunderstandings.

Date introduced: the early 20th century
Date prevalent: the early 20th century – the late 2000s (new environmentalism in the 1960s and 1970s); around 2016 –

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Parin, Jay. “The Greening of the Humanities: Deconstruction Is Compost. Environmental Studies Is the Academic Field of the 90s.” New York Times. 1995, sec. Magazine.
Environmentalism is, ultimately, a question of design – of ethical design.

Michel Conan, ed., Environmentalism in Landscape Architecture (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2000).
Hyson notes very accurately that “environmentalism, of course, suggests not just the celebration of nature but advocacy and instruction, the promotion of an increased consciousness about the natural world around us.”

Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind. Fifth edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014.
In the 1960s and 1970s “environment” and “ecology” became household words … Fear underlay the upswell in what used to be called “conservation,” but was increasingly known as “environmentalism” … The new driving impulse, based on ecological awareness, transcended concern for the quality of life to fear life itself … This idea of a continuous and interrelated web of living things and natural processes, and of man’s total dependency on it, characterized the new environmentalism.

Spieles, Douglas J. Environmentalism: An Evolutionary Approach. Routledge/Earthscan, 2018.
Environmentalism is an ideology of concern for human behavior and advocacy for the nonhuman world. It is, however, much more than a single way of thinking. In fact, environmentalism is a diverse collection of ideas and worldviews that can appear to be contradictory and incompatible … the great task of environmentalism is to rectify conceptual misunderstandings and to build social cohesion around the ecological processes on which our species depends.

Slovic, Scott, Swarnalatha Rangarajan, and Vidya Sarveswaran, eds. Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication. Routledge International Handbooks. Abingdon, Oxon, New York, NY: Routledge, 2019.
To the extent that environmentalism depends on an ecological view of life, comedy tends to be greener than tragedy.

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Social and Historical Processes:
1962: Rachel Carson published her influential book Silent Spring.
April 26, 1986: The Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred at a plant in Ukraine.
2006: Al Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
April 22, 2016: The Paris Agreement was signed by 196 state parties.

Related Entries: BioregionConservationEcocriticism/EcocriticsEnvironmental HistoryExtinctionGreenUrban EcologyWilderness

External Links: Wikipedia’s Timeline of history of environmentalism

Extinction brings non-human species under the spotlight, advocating a reflection on human history. Extinction imagines a future without the accelerating sixth mass extinction yet with kinships.

Date introduced: the early 19th century
Date prevalent: 2014 (Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History) –

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Allaby, Michael. A Dictionary of Ecology. 5 ed. Oxford University Press, 2015.
The elimination of a taxon. The term can be used of the local loss of a species or a population. This may take place in several ways. In the simplest case the taxon disappears from the record and is not replaced. Alternatively, one taxon may replace another, the earlier group consequently disappearing. Thus there is a process of either subtraction or substitution. Extinction generally takes place at particular times and places, but there are recurring periods when episodes of mass extinction have taken place. Environmental catastrophe, occurring for whatever reason, removes many groups from the environment and ecosystems collapse. Eventually new forms appear and evolution resumes. It would appear that periods of mass extinction control the pattern of evolution.

Heise, Ursula K. Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species. Chicago, IL, UNITED STATES: University of Chicago Press, 2016.
… the discovery of extinction as a bio­logical and historical process, fears concerning the extinc­tion of individual species in the contemporary age that are often tied up with anxieties over the consequences of modernization and colonization, and insights into the his­torical importance of mass extinctions that generated the scenario of another mass die-­off of species in the present.

Colebrook, Claire. “Extinction.” In Posthuman Glossary, edited by Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova, 150–53. London Oxford New York New Delhi Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.
… extinction announces itself today as the sixth great mass extinction. Humans are at once threatened by this mass extinction event at the same time as they contribute to the acceleration of this extinction, and have done so since the earliest days of human migration … The very possibility of extinction, along with a milieu in which there is an awareness of possible catastrophe, intensifies the modern sense that reason is bound to life, and that this singular life that is bound to a species may become extinct.

Vermeulen, Pieter. Literature and the Anthropocene. Routledge, 2020.
Human life in the Anthropocene is lived in the shadow of extinction … In cosmic terms, human life has always already been over: “Extinction,” [Brassier] writes, “is not to be understood here as the termination of a biological species, but rather as that which levels the transcendence ascribed to the human.” The idea of extinction reminds us that the cosmos is “indifferent to our existence and oblivious to the ‘values’ and ‘meanings’ which we would drape over it in order to make it more hospitable”.

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Social and Historical Processes:
December 28, 1973: President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).
March 15, 2013: TEDxDeExtinction Talk. National Geographic, Washington, DC.

Related Entries: BiodiversityBioregionClimax CommunityConservationInvasive/Invasion

In addition to being a private ideal world, a garden is an epitome of our society; the consideration of plant sociology within a garden allows us to think about the complex interrelationships of life. Plant cultivation and maintenance in the garden is not only a mind therapy but also an approach to strengthen the individual sense of environmental responsibility.

Date partially obsolete: since the mid-19th century (superceded by the term “landscape architecture”)
Date prevalent: before the mid-19th century; the 21st century (in the context of “urban gardening”)

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Gröning, Gert. “Ideological Aspects of Nature Garden Concepts in Late Twentieth-Century Germany.” In Nature and Ideology: Natural Garden Design in the Twentieth Century, edited by Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, 221–48. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1997.
There are many definitions of gardens. Compared to the word nature, there seems to be a kind of agreement about the term garden. In general, the word garden is used “for grounds laid out ornamentally”; they may also be “places of public entertainment.”

Rocca, Alessandro, ed. Planetary Gardens: The Landscape Architecture of Gilles Clément. Basel, Boston: Birkhäuser, 2008.
The Garden in Movement recommends respect for the species that settle there in an autonomous way … The design of the garden, which constantly changes, is the result of the work of the person who maintains it, not of an idea developed at the drawing board … A great garden, a small planet. The Planetary Garden comes from the combination between nomadic observation and a hypothesis: can we see the earth as a single garden? And can we apply the precepts of the Garden in Movement to it? The Planetary Garden is a principle, and its gardener is all of humankind.

Cayeros, Patricia Díaz. “Garden as Threshold in Eighteenth-Century New Spain: The Puebla Cathedral’s Hortus Conclusus.” In Interlacing Words and Things: Bridging the Nature-culture Opposition In Gardens and Landscape, edited by Stephen Bann, 135-55. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2012.
In conclusion, gardens offer a terrestrial means of representing the link between earthly things and celestial realities and, even more so, between lives in the terrestrial world (the world of illusion and sin) and the divine world. Gardens enable terrestrial lives to be lived as a metaphorical anticipation of eternal life in heaven.

Curl, James Stevens, and Susan Wilson. A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (3 Ed.). Oxford University Press, 2015.
Gardens for perambulation, spiritual succour, pleasure, and recreation have been known since ancient times: some had religious significance, and water (in channels, rivulets, or fountains) helped to enhance them. Certain gardens where the architectural content was huge, e.g. those of the Villa d’Este at Tivoli (1565–72—by Ligorio), were designed to link the present to the past, and contained complex programmes to trigger historical, philosophical, and religious musings.

Kuhn, Mary. “Garden Variety: Botany and Multiplicity In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Abolitionism.” American Literature: A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography, vol. 3, no. 3, 1 Sep. 2015, pp. 489 – 516.
Agency in Stowe’s garden appears to work both ways, as the gardener’s identification with the plants works a powerful influence on his thoughts. Care begets beautiful results, and that beauty, which Stowe associates with God, has the power to transform the perceiving subject. “A garden seems to bring a man into confidential relations with all the forces of nature,” she writes in an article for the Independent; “A man comes to have in himself a plant life, a plant appreciation of sun, rain, wind, and all the mysterious agents of natural life” (Stowe 1855, 1).

Weilacher, Udo. “Is Landscape Gardening?” In Is Landscape…? Essays on the Identity of Landscape, edited by Gareth Doherty and Charles Waldheim, 93–114. Routledge, 2015.
Gardens continue to symbolize the fundamental understanding people in a particular period of time have for nature and the environment, and are bound to the prevailing social conditions of that time … For most people, gardening is an extremely private activity and “when designing a garden they are longing for paradise. Anyone who plans a garden is designing his ideal world. He uses particular parts of nature – or something he finds in a garden centre – and makes them into his own ideal world.

Hunt, John Dixon. The Making of Place: Modern and Contemporary Gardens. London, UNITED KINGDOM: Reaktion Books, Limited, 2016.
The garden is, though, a useful and ubiquitous term, more flexible than ‘park’. But more importantly, while the garden since the Middle Ages at least has sometimes ‘grown’ into the park, the park has not dwindled into the garden, though they often would incorporate gardens within their larger landscape. Even professional landscape architects, who today seek prominence in the public world of design, find that gardens were the prime stimulus or model … In theoretical terms, a ‘garden’ is a category that we all recognize …

Lokman, Kees, and Susan Herringto. “Gardens as Migratory Devices.” Edited by Daniel Daou and Pablo Pérez-Ramos. New Geographies, no. 8 (November 2016): 142–53.
The garden, while occupying only a small niche within this matrix, becomes a critical space-both physical and perceptual-in which to revisit and stage discussions about notions of migration, enclosure, politics, and aesthetics. It represents a tangible arena that challenges us to question and redefine relationships with one another and with natural systems and processes. It is exactly the idea of active, hands-on involvement with living systems that makes gardens such powerful modes of exploration in ongoing conversations about the mediation of nature and culture.

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The origin of green is strongly related to growing vegetations or plants. Green focuses on the resiliency of our designed environments. Green suggests a sense of kinship between human and living plants (green virtues) and a dynamic relationship between plants and gardeners (viridic).

Date introduced: during the 1960s and 1970s
Date prevalent: around mid-1990s; the late 2010s –

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Oxford University Press and Chicago Public Library. Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2000-.
Green designates growing vegetation, grass, etc. Green means covered with or abundant in foliage or vegetation; verdant; (of a tree) in leaf. Green also means having qualities which in plants are often indicated by green colour: flourishing, fresh, new, immature. Meanwhile, green is an intransitive, meaning to become green; to sprout new leaves, become covered with vegetation.

Doherty, Gareth. Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-StateParadoxes of Green. University of California Press, 2017.
To have and to be green is often presented as a moral imperative, yet the provision of urban greenery can be morally questionable … Green, the main focus of this book, is a synecdoche for landscape … Growth and green become ambiguous terms united conceptually in their ties to the rapacious appetite for development under capitalism.

Raxworthy, Julian, and Fiona Harrisson. Overgrown: Practices between Landscape Architecture and Gardening. Illustrated edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2018.
The viridic is a landscape-architectural version of the tectonic in architecture, its title derived from the Latin word for green, “viridis,” which had an implicit connection with vegetation and growth … In his history of the color green, Michel Pastoureau explores the Latin name for green: virent. As in the English term “greenery,” vegetation was virentia. Green also denoted growth in the Latin viridesco, a characteristic linked to the garden, which was a viridarium, and also to spring, which was ver. Consequently, I am proposing a new term, viridic, in the place of tectonic, to refer to plant material in the sense of the word material that Semper used.

Slovic, Scott, Swarnalatha Rangarajan, and Vidya Sarveswaran, eds. Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication. Routledge International Handbooks. Abingdon, Oxon, New York, NY: Routledge, 2019.
The green virtues are mechanisms that provide motivation to act in our various roles from consumers to citizens in order to reduce our impact on nature, regardless of the behavior of others. They also give us the resiliency to live meaningful lives even when our actions are not reciprocated … Yet the green virtues can provide guidance for how to live gracefully in a changing world, while helping to restore in us a sense of agency.

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Social and Historical Processes:
Oct. 29, 1995: Jay Parini’s article “The Greening of the Humanities” was published on The New York Times.
1996: “Towards a New Green Revolution,” The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
2019: Green New Deal (GND) proposals.

Related Project:
The 2100 Project: An Atlas for the Green New Deal, The McHarg Center, 2019-

Related Concepts: Landscape/Green Urbanism, Sustainable Design, …

Related Entries: BioregionConservationEcocriticism/EcocriticsEnvironmental HistoryExtinctionNetworkUrban Ecology

Growth highlights the importance of plants in designed environments, especially the growing form of a plant as a design element (planted form). Reciprocally, the plant is a spatial medium that materializes the discursive notion of dynamic process embedded in growth.

Date introduced: around the late 1970s in relation to the idea of “planted form”
Date prevalent: the late 1970s – the 1980s; the late 2010s –
[Date prevalent in France: around the 1990s – ]

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Nealon, Jeffrey T. Plant Theory: Biopower & Vegetable Life. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2016.
The power of growth that is the soul of plants turns out to be “too strong” (too powerful and singular) for plants to enjoy any harmonized movement toward an entelechy or ideal end-form … the abilities for growth and reproduction shared by all things that can be said to be “alive” …

Maher, Chauncey. Plant Minds: A Philosophical Defense. Routledge, 2017.
Growth is simply to increase (irreversibly) in size (in mass and volume). Reproduction is the ability to create another similar organism, either with or without the involvement of another organism.

Raxworthy, Julian, and Fiona Harrisson. Overgrown: Practices between Landscape Architecture and Gardening. Illustrated edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2018.
Gardeners’ main concern is growth. The process of growth is a potent metaphor in the garden … The importance of growth unites gardeners and landscape architects. Both require successful plant growth to show that their efforts have been successful … Ideas of growth and change are now in the Zeitgeist of both architecture and landscape architecture in what I call “the process discourse” … Theoretically, a focus on growth makes the form of landscape architecture projects plastic, changing spaces over time.

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Invasion is relative but not absolute. An invasive plant species is not the one that invades the biophysical environment, but the one that dominates a particular region throughout a particular period.

Date introduced: the 19th century
Date prevalent: the 1930s – around the 1960s; the 1990s –

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Pollan, Michael. “Against Nativism.” The New York Times, May 15, 1994, sec. Magazine.
Branded as “huns,” “invaders” or “monsters,” these demon species are then used to tar the entire class of alien plants with guilt by association. But just how representative are kudzu and its noxious cronies? In fact, the great majority of introduced species can’t even survive beyond the garden wall, much less thrive. And many of the species that have been successfully naturalized we now regard as unobjectionable, even welcome, figures in the landscape.

Gould, Stephen Jay. “An Evolutionary Perspective on Strengths, Fallacies, and Confusions in the Concept of Native Plants.” In Nature and Ideology: Natural Garden Design in the Twentieth Century, edited by Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, 11–20. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1997.
… “native” plants cannot be deemed biologically best in any justifiable way. “Native” are only the plants that happened to arrive first and be able to flourish only indicates a status as “better than” others available, not as optimal or globally “best suited.”

Gröning, Gert, and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn. “The Myth of Plant-Invaded Gardens and Landscapes.” Études Rurales, no. 185 (2010): 197–217.
[Plants] grew in certain locations and became extinct and grew again somewhat modified in new locations … plants are not as static as some would have it. As elsewhere so with plants “panta rhei.”

Allaby, Michael. A Dictionary of Ecology. 5 ed. Oxford University Press, 2015.
(~species) Any species, native or non-native, which heavily colonizes a particular habitat.

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Related Projects:
Lincoln memorial garden, Springfield, Illinois, Jens Jensen, 1934-1936.
Parc Henri Matisse, Lille, France, Gilles Clement, 1995.
The “International Biome” at Bendigo Botanic Gardens’ Garden for the Future, Victoria, Australia, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, 2018.

Related Concepts: Natural Garden (the use of native plants, Jensen); Wild Garden

Related Entries: AestheticArboretumCirculationClimax CommunityExtinctionGardenNature WritingWilderness

Multispecies care about both ethologies and ecologies. Multispecies is the public caring of plants which is an integral part of common worlds.

Date introduced: around the millennium in relation to the notion of Anthropocene
Date prevalent: around mid-2000s –

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Hinchliffe, Steve, and Sarah Whatmore. “Living Cities: Towards a Politics of Conviviality.” Science as Culture 15, no. 2 (June 1, 2006): 123–138.
We have mentioned in passing the multiplicity of nonhumans that inhabit cities … cities are not simply inhabited but co-inhabited, in ways that are multiple, entangled and disrupt established ethologies and ecologies. Animals, plants, microbes, and the multiple relations within and between these temporary stabilizations, become urban, often in ways that are surprising.

Kirksey, S. Eben, and Stefan Helmreich. “The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography.” Cultural Anthropology 25, no. 4 (November 1, 2010): 545–76.
Multispecies ethnographers are studying the host of organisms whose lives and deaths are linked to human social worlds … The adjective “multispecies” already travels in biological and ecological research worlds, referring to patterns of multispecies grazing, the coconstruction of niches, and wildlife management.

Hartigan, John. “Plant Publics: Multispecies Relating in Spanish Botanical Gardens.” Anthropological Quarterly 88, no. 2 (2015): 481–507.
These multispecies assemblages further expand conceptualizations of the public in that they are sites where relations with nonhumans are actively cultivated. Care of the species encompasses the manifold means by which flora are subjected to institutional practices of caring.

Kirksey, Eben. “Multispecies.” In Posthuman Glossary, edited by Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova, 265–6. London Oxford New York New Delhi Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.
Timothy Ingold has recently suggested that we abandon the multispecies idiom since the notion of species itself is a human construct … Paying clear attention to the ebb and flow of agency in multispecies worlds reveals that humans are not alone in our practices that group kinds of life on the basis of similarity and divide others on the basis of difference … In other words, species emerge as entangled agents become with one another in common worlds.

Miller, Theresa L. Plant Kin: A Multispecies Ethnography in Indigenous Brazil. University of Texas Press, 2019.
As a multispecies ethnography, this book explores the care and love for plant kin that Canela gardeners develop and maintain as well as the experiences of plants themselves, or what Myers terms “plant feelings” (Myers 2015). The “feelings” of people and plants that engender love, care, and affection amongst kin are sensory experiences of humans handling, smelling, listening to, tasting, and responding to plants, and of plants responding to human touch and communicating in their own sensory ways of growth, movement, and chemical utterances that constitute much of plant “chemical language.”

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Social and Historical Processes:
2006: First Multispecies Salon in association with the American Anthropological Association Presidential Session

Related Projects:
Jardi Botanic de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, Carles Ferrater (project leader), 1999.
Living Breakwaters, New York Harbor NY. SCAPE, 2013-

Related Entries: ArboretumBioregionConservationEnvironmental HistoryUrban EcologyWilderness

Nature Writing
Nature writings speak for plants who can’t talk and walk, inviting humans to understand the written plant species in a particular biophysical environment by themselves.

Date introduced: around the early 18th century (developed between the mid-18th century and the late 19th century)
Date prevalent: the 20th century; around the 2010s –

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Wallace, David Rains. “THE NATURE OF NATURE WRITING.” The New York Times, July 22, 1984, sec. 7.
[Nature writings] are appreciative esthetic responses to a scientific view of nature … and at the same time they question the directions in which economic applications of science are leading civilization.

Stewart, Frank. A Natural History of Nature Writing. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1995.
Nature writing is the pursuit of the seeable and unseeable. It it an attempt to give voice to “the corn and the grass and the atmosphere writing,” as Thoreau asserted, to speak for what cannot speak. It is also an attempt to transform us in a way that seems impossible but is essential if we are to realize, in a biologically diverse world, a future that is moral and compassionate … Nature writing, Gary Nabhan asserts in his recent anthology Counting Sheep, is not only an attempt to record habitats and creatures in order to make them vivid in the minds of readers but also a way to demonstrate respect for experiences of lives that are not our own, whether human or nonhuman.

Tüür, Kadri, and Triin Reitalu. “Botanical Nature Writing: An Ecocritical Analysis.” Estonian Journal of Ecology 61, no. 1 (March 2012): 9–19.
As a recently developed approach in literary theory that focuses on human-environment relationships (Buell, 1995; Love, 2003; Murphy, 2009), ecocriticism has taken nature writing as one of the central types of literature studied with its methods … The texts of nature writing, unlike fiction, are not an end in themselves, but serve as means for persuading the reader to visit the same places and see the same species, in order to gain real-life experience similar to that of the author of the text … Nature writing as a certain type of literary text mediates nature and culture, bringing the processes in nature into the realm of human written culture. In nature writing, the culture-nature interaction is modelled, and its analysis can reveal certain ideological aspects of their cultural context.

Gandy, Matthew. “Marginalia: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Urban Wastelands.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 103, no. 6, 1 Nov. 2013, pp. 1301 – 1316.
[Richard] Mabey’s observations connect with a heterogeneous ground of nature writing that draws together aspects of popular science, vernacular landscape culture, and a wider sense of curiosity or enchantment with everyday objects and spaces.

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Network examines the community through connected relationships between each internal actor, especially the non-human and even inorganic actors. Network cares more about the dynamic process of ongoing relationships existing in the examined community than the static output. A tiny plant can even draw together an integrated network with various aspects, including colonial enterprise, material exchange, scientific development, knowledge distribution, and visual representation.

Date introduced: around the millennium in relation to the neo-materialism study
Date prevalent: around the 2000s –

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Heise, Ursula K., Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann, eds. The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.
This entails understanding that our behaviors—human, animal, nonhuman, more-than-human—are formed in co-constitutive ways, and that we form both explicit and implicit, or intentional and unintentional, partnerships with other species. For this reason many human–animal theorists have taken to thinking of community as a network not solely composed of human members but also as necessarily open to multiple species.

Pickett, Steward T., et al., ed. Science for the Sustainable City: Empirical Insights From the Baltimore School of Urban Ecology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.
Networks: Sets of nodes-in our case environmental stewardship organizations-connected by ties, or relationships. Quantitative measurements of network characteristics allow researchers to assess how they relate to natural resource management. Network analysis concepts include Centrality, Centralization, and Density.

Hutton, Jane Elizabeth. Reciprocal Landscapes: Stories of Material Movements. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, New York, NY: Routledge, 2020.
Olmsted understood the park, Smithson argued, not in isolation, but as a network of relations. Just as the Non-sites sculptures were not isolated objects, Smithson concluded the same of Olmsted’s work: “A park can no longer be seen as ‘a-thing-in-itself,’ but rather as a process of ongoing relationships existing in a physical region.” Indeed, landscape – dynamically shaped by both human and nonhuman forces – was inherently suited for dialectical thinking, for thinking beyond itself.

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Urban Ecology
Urban ecology situates ecological processes within the context of a human-dominated urban system, interrogating the social sciences of an urban system through the ecological perspective. Urban trees, flora, and vegetations are part of the urban ecology discussion, materializing interactions between human and ecological processes culturally within the urban system.

Date introduced: (coined in the 1930s) the late 1970s
Date prevalent: around the 1980s – the late 1990s; around the 2010s –

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Marzluff, John M. et al., ed. Urban Ecology: An International Perspective on the Interaction Between Humans and Nature. New York: Springer, 2008.
Urban Ecology is the study of ecosystems that include humans living in cities and urbanizing landscapes. It is an emerging, interdisciplinary field that aims to understand how human and ecological processes can coexist in human-dominated systems and help societies with their efforts to become more sustainable.

Baltimore Ecosystem Study. “Urban Ecology.” BES Urban Lexicon (blog), March 25, 2013.
Urban ecology is an integrated scientific study of complex, spatially extensive urbanized systems … In application, urban ecology acknowledges the need for sustainability and for social equity in the distribution of environmental vulnerabilities and amenities.

Del Tredici, Peter. “The Flora of the Future.” Places Journal, April 17, 2014.
Any discussion of urban ecology would be incomplete without a consideration of the cultural significance of the plants that grow in cities. This is an important topic because it explains not only why certain plants were brought here but why so many have spread so rapidly … If we fail to take into account their historical associations with people, we can’t fully understand their present ecological spread.

Etingoff, Kimberly, ed. Urban Ecology: Strategies for Green Infrastructure and Land Use. Boca Raton, FL, Oakville, ON: CRC Press LLC, Apple Academic Press, 2015.
Cities provide natural processes necessary for survival for humans and other living organisms in urban areas. Urban ecology elucidates some of these processes, and sheds light on their importance to healthy, fulfilling urban livelihoods.

Pickett, Steward T., et al., ed. Science for the Sustainable City: Empirical Insights From the Baltimore School of Urban Ecology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.
Green infrastructure: Infrastructure designed to perform ecological work within cities and suburbs. It consists of several types, including the following: green streets are curb extensions or sidewalk planters planted with vegetation that absorb stormwater; green roofs are roofs with vegetation that utilizes stormwater; retention basins are ponds that retain and filter stormwater before gradually releasing it into nearby waterways.

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Related Project Types: Landscape/Green Urbanism, Green Infrastructure, Sustainable Design, Urban Parks, …

Related Entries: BiodiversityCirculation, Climax CommunityEnvironmentalismGreenInvasive/InvasionMultispeciesUrban Nature

Urban Nature
Urban nature concerns the well-being of every city resident. The quality of the human-dominated urban system is largely guaranteed by plant species as a whole, including urban trees, flora, vegetation, etc.

Date introduced: around the 1980s
Date prevalent: around the 1980s – the late 1990s

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Spirn, Anne W. The Granite Garden: Urban Nature And Human Design. New York: Basic Books, 1985.
All these interactions between human activities and the natural environment produce an ecosystem very different from the one that existed prior to the city. It is a system sustained by massive importation of energy and materials, a system in which human cultural processes create a place quite different from undisturbed nature, yet united to it through the common flow of natural processes. As cities grow in size and density, the changes they produce in the air, earth, water, and life within and around them trigger environmental problems that affect the well-being of every city resident.

Gandy, Matthew. “Marginalia: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Urban Wastelands.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 103, no. 6, 1 Nov. 2013, pp. 1301 – 1316.
A focus on spontaneous forms of urban nature transcends the merely speculative or utilitarian potentialities of ostensibly empty spaces … An engagement with the independent agency of nature enables intellectual threads to emerge between new understandings of urban ecology and philosophical developments within the epistemology of science. The sense of nature as active, dynamic, and constitutive of the cultural and material characteristics of urban space reveals the metropolis to be both unfixable and to a significant degree unknowable.

Gandy, Matthew. “Urban Nature and the Ecological Imaginary.” In The Routledge Companion to Urban Imaginaries, edited by Christoph Lindner and Miriam Meissner, 54–63. Routledge Companions. London: New York : Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2019.
The production of urban nature is a simultaneous process of social and bio-physical change in which new spaces are created and destroyed, ranging from the technological networks that give sustenance to the modern city to new appropriations of nature within the urban landscape … the understanding of urban nature that recognize the cultural and historical specificities of capitalist urbanization.

Rehman, Nida. “Following mosquitoes into an urban forest.” In The Botanical City, edited by Matthew Gandy and Sandra Jasper, 178–184. Jovis Verlag GmbH, 2020.
This area exemplifies many of the properties and processes associated with unregulated, disturbed, or neglected landscapes that scholars in recent years have highlighted as a crucial aspect of contemporary urban nature. These include ruderal and spontaneous vegetation in human-dominated or post-industrial sites, and species which are attuned and adapted to the built environment and polluted soils but which, in many cases, are often considered non-native or invasive. On sites of this type, non-human subjects open up new avenues for engagement, research, and conservation with respect to the complexities of urban ecological processes, while also often disrupting pre-existing cultural and scientific frameworks and aesthetic conceptions of landscape.

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Plants are part of the self-willed process of a wilderness land, which is something outside the totality of human civilization.

Date introduced: the 19th century
Date prevalent: around the late 19th century – around the mid-20th century; the 1990s; around the 2010s –

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Marris, Emma. Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. New York: Bloomsbury, 2011.
[definition from the Wilderness Act of 1964] The act takes a pristineness approach, saying, “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind. Yale University Press, 1967.
Wilderness was the basic ingredient of American civilization …. Americans regarded wilderness as a moral and physical wasteland fit only for conquest and fructification in the name of progress, civilization, and Christianity … And wilderness, in Eastern thought, did not have an unholy or evil connotation but was venerated as the symbol and even the very essence of the deity.

Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.” In Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, edited by William Cronon, 1st edition. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996.
… wilderness embodies a dualistic vision in which the human is entirely outside the natural. If we allow ourselves to believe that nature, to be true, must also be wild, then our very presence in nature represents its fall. The place where we are is the place where nature is not.
It is not the things we label as wilderness that are the problem – for nonhuman nature and large tracts of the natural world do deserve protection – but rather what we ourselves mean when we use the label … Learning to honor the wild – learning to remember and acknowledge the autonomy of the other-means striving for critical self-consciousness in all of our actions.

Peterson, Jeanette Favrot. “The Wilderness-Garden Paradigm in Sixteen-Century New Spain: Paradise between Metaphor and Lived Reality.” In Interlacing Words and Things: Bridging the Nature-culture Opposition In Gardens and Landscape, edited by Stephen Bann, 115-134. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2012.
In the early modern period, “wilderness” and “garden” were ambivalent terms that both characterized a geophysical space and, in a nonliteral sense, defined a psychological and spiritual condition-a “state of mind as well as a state of nature,” as George Williams phrases it … The early Christian Church had deployed the promise of paradise and the challenge of desert monasticism, its own historical “wilderness,” to convey different aspects of its program. I would stress that the loci of wilderness and paradise-garden occupied overlapping registers of signification, mutually informing one another.

Biello, David. “Is There a Future for Wilderness?” Scientific American Blog Network (blog), September 3, 2014.
The wildness of wilderness is what needs preserving most now, the plants and animals and even geology of a given place’s ability to determine its own fate … Plants and animals can take their own course, without any planning, and may change not to anyone’s liking. That in itself may be the ultimate resource wilderness provides—something outside the totality of human civilization.

Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind. Fifth edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014.
Today dictionaries define wilderness as uncultivated and otherwise undeveloped land. The absence of men and the presence of wild animals is assumed. The word also designates other non-human environments, such as the sea and, more recently, outer space … Any place in which a person feels stripped of guidance, lost, and perplexed may be called a wilderness.

Allaby, Michael. A Dictionary of Ecology. 5 ed. Oxford University Press, 2015.
An extensive area of land which has never been permanently occupied by humans or subjected to their intensive use (e.g. for mineral extraction or cultivation) and which exists in a natural or nearly natural state. Wilderness areas are selected for their ecological wholeness, rather than for the presence of any particular biota, landscape, or recreational attraction.

Pickett, Steward T., et al., ed. Science for the Sustainable City: Empirical Insights From the Baltimore School of Urban Ecology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019.
WUI: The wildland-urban interface, a conception that emphasizes the interaction of urbanized lands, including suburbs and exurbs, with wildlands such as large regional parks, production forests, and grazing lands.

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Social and Historical Processes:
January 21, 1935: The Wilderness Society was established.
1949-1975: Sierra Club’s 1th Wilderness Conference – 14th Wilderness Conference
1964: the Wilderness Act

Related Projects:
Parc Henri Matisse, Lille, France, Gilles Clement, 1995.
Teardrop Park, New York, MVVA, 1999–2006.
Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum, Los Angeles, Studio-MLA, 2012.

Related Project Types: US National Parks (the Yellowstone Model)

Related Entries: AestheticBiodiversityClimax CommunityEmergence/Complexity TheoryEnvironmentalismGardenGrowthInvasive/InvasionMultispeciesNature Writing

External Links: American Wilderness Philosophy (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)


The current version comes from the Independent Study course conducted at the University of Virginia School of Architecture.
The course is advised by Prof. Beth Meyer in Spring 2021. For more information, please contact