Humans and Ornamental Plants: A Mutualism?

Anna Wilson, Dave Kendal, Joslin L Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Since the Neolithic period, humans have surrounded themselves and their settlements with ornamental plants. Why? This paper explores this question using the theory of mutualism, which refers to a biological process where different species interact to the benefit of both. The paper first describes how ornamental plants are understood in contemporary academic thinking. Then it introduces the theory of mutualism, with particular attention to its historical roots. Discussion explores how the relationship between humans and ornamental plants can indeed be conceived of as a mutualism. Two benefits are identified in adopting this approach. First, understanding the relationship as a mutualism could help focus attention on the specific benefits provided by ornamental plants for people and help legitimize the study of ornamental plants within the natural sciences. Mutualism potentially offers a complementary framework to existing social theory such as biophilia, that allows integration with approaches from the natural sciences to more fully understand both sides of the human-nature relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-263
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Biophilia
  • Connection to nature
  • Conservation
  • Environmental psychology

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