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Appreciating otherness

Plants are sometimes difficult to understand and failing to understand them makes them overlooked. Struggling to find the right language and failing at this is seemingly very human too. This leads to the other shutting off and losing connection. I can connect to this issue and it makes the research on plant sentience feel personal and very close. Suddenly the plant became a symbol for not being understood properly. A thought and worry that I had for a very long time growing up perhaps a little bit more sensitive, a little more woolly, a little more timid than my peers in elementary school.

But, there is a lot to learn from beings who act and think a little different. At least, there is a lot to learn from plants.

Plants have sophisticated ways to perceive, recognize and manage their environment, they can alter their metabolism to produce repel- lant, protective or attractive com- pounds to manage the presence of other plants and entities around them. Via chemical volatiles (like scent) scientist show they ‘communicate‘ with other plants, microbes, animals and even humans.

Perfumes that are sold in stores are merely bought to to bring us sensorial pleasure, but if we look at the roots of ingredients that are used in many perfumes, p.e. monoterpenes like geraniol, limonene and camphora and sequiter- penes like farnesene and B-caryophyllene where initially ‘intended‘ to have a much different message then when used in perfumes like ‘masculine sensual‘, ‘aqua Allegria or ‘voyage sur la route des epices de Sultane de Saba‘.

With this research I wonder if it is possible to reproduce ‘scent‘ build on this vegetal dynamics of complex chemical signalling (like repel, protect and attract). This will be a research with the leading question ; if we would have these ‘perfumes‘, could we then use this and it’s messages to the benefit of plants (and maybe insects like bees), or at the very least; change our perspective from the human viewpoint into a more empathic perspective that acknowledges both the other- and sameness of species communication and sense-perception.

Lingua Planta / Studio Merle Bergers

De Bilt, Utrecht, the Netherlands