It has been reported in New Scientist that researchers have discovered that taller and prettier plants are more likely to be studied by botanists. Using a statistical model, these researchers found that physical appearance, colour, size and the height of its stems was the most important when explaining research interest among botanists.
This research suggests that we may be unknowingly limiting our research interests by a bias towards what we see as beautiful. If you don’t believe me, go have a look at how much research has been done about cats….
Over time, this bias toward plants that we perceive as prettier could have unfavourable consequences concerning research gaps. This could have disastrous impacts on conservation efforts – we don’t truly know the value of flora until it has been studied.
Undervalued species are less likely to recieve money for conservation efforts. The Thorn of the Cross, is a South American plant which is facing extinction. On interflora, this plant was voted one of the ugliest plants in the world. This plant is an integral part of its ecosystem. However, following numerous searches, I am unsuccessful in finding any conservation efforts to save this species.
The Thorn of the Cross is facing extinction due to loss of habitat. Further research into such species could help save such habitats from destruction. Such species could have numerous instrumental benefits, such as medicinal benefits, for example.
The world list of threatened species (the IUCN RED List) should be the basis for guiding global plant conservation. However, the process for deciding where to focus our conservation efforts is are far from science based and often the money for such efforts does not come from a source of knowledge (unscientific corporations).
To truly value all of nature, we must learn to appreciate the intrinsic value of nature. This means valuing even the ugliest participants of flora. By accepting such values, we may learn and appreciate more of the environment that sustains our being.