Plants as Beings

Plants are such dynamic living beings that ‘It’ just never seems to me to be the right pronoun to use in conversational and prose references.

As one Horticulturally minded friend has said,  “referring to a plant as ‘It’ is absolutely Rude”

For fun, try referring to particular plants, shrubs and trees too, as ‘he or she’, as you would refer to Friends.

  • You are referring to a KIND of plant with its name or pronoun anyway, not to an individual plant of one sex or another.

Pronouns and any names of endearment you may have for your plant characters have nothing to do with plant sexuality in a biological sense. Relaxed reference to plants in this way just gives them personifications so we can fondly think of them.

  • As a separate matter altogether, when pertinent, you can find out if a particular INDIVIDUAL of a kind of plant is a biological male or female….. or both.

Traditionally, since it’s confusing to know what’s ‘correct’, one just avoids the ‘he, she’ pronouns. When the plants become ‘it’ by default, or you use the whole botanical or common name over and over in conversational references, talking or writing about the plants as entities is somewhat awkward. You have to pluralise things unnecessarily, using they and them and those, and juggling sentences around to avoid the pronoun problem.

That’s what I’d like you to help me to fix.

The Good News is…

You can just Choose your own Pronoun

as the Spirit moves You.

Which pronoun you use in referring to a kind of plant can be an
entirely subjective decision.

Your choices are just to help you remember the names and/or personas of the plants to which you refer,
whether in thought or in deed. Whatever you decide is ok if it solidifies your relationship with the plant.
What you decide probably matters more to you than to most people you might be talking with.

It’s a friendly approach. You make your own rules. Try to be consistent, but if you call a plant he today and she tomorrow that’s ok too, no harm done, you can change your mind.

It’s just easier and more lighthearted to think and talk about the characters of your green world that way.

Plants as beings. Less stilted. Animates them.

So how to choose your pronoun? If you know the varietal name, perhaps this type was named for someone who discovered that kind of plant, or hybridised to achieve this particular wonderful form…was it Charles Sargent or Betty Corning? You can think of the plants as he and she respectively if you want. Or perhaps a kind of plant by color or character is feminine or masculine in its appearance, from your point of view, suggesting a pronoun choice.

If we go by their given names, Clematis Princess Diana would surely be a she with her lipstick pink flowers, Clematis Mrs. Robert Brydon would be she though bluish, Linaria Canon J. Went would probably be a he, though pink, but not necessarily.

You just can decide for yourself what you think is most appropriate.

If you don’t like the idea, please understand that I felt I needed to sometimes refer to plants with personal pronouns for my writing to be as alive as I want it to be, and the logic behind this way of referring to particular plants needed some explanation.

I hope that you will take your Freedom, and think of your plants however you please.

  • Woods Cree is an Algonqian language spoken in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada. It recently got some attention with the focus on Native Americans in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

In that language there are only 3 personal pronouns, but each represents 3 or 4 pronouns !
The pronoun nȇya means I-My-Mine.
The pronoun kȇya means You-Your-Yours.
The pronoun wȇya means He-She-His-Hers.

With these basic, all encompassing pronouns, it would seem you could hardly go wrong.

It would be nice if our All-American language made such inclusive accomodations, at least for plants.

For the time being, enjoy your plants whatever you do.Photo by Jennifer Pederson / Papaver rupifragum, double form

This entry was posted in Garden Making Guidance, Plant Portraits and Stories, Things They Never Tell You, Your Reasoned Landscape and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
  • All written and visual materials on this site are Copyrighted. (C) Ellen Cool 2010 - 2017

33 Comments

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  30. Posted 2010/10/02 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Dear Ellen,

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    I always refer to my plants as “he” and you’re the only other person I’ve heard that does this, as well! Some of the more dainty flowers are “she” but most of my perennials are definitely “hes!”

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