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Book Offers New Twist On Plant Science to Help People
Plants may hold secrets to making us better people. Common plants like algae, soybean, pine, coffee, and many others have unique properties that help them to thrive in tough environments. And their success can help humans to overcome their own challenges.
That is the view of Dr. Gina Mohammed, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario scientist who has studied the behaviour and physiology of plants for over 20 years. Mohammed has distilled her observations into a book of inspirational reflections called "Catnip and Kerosene Grass - What Plants Teach Us About Life". The book draws upon scientific knowledge and anecdotal information about plants to encourage and challenge people.
"Science is most meaningful when it relates to the everyday lives of people," she believes. "In all the years I've studied plants, I've been most intrigued by what I can learn from them, not just about them – how plants react to stress, how they work together, and how they can establish themselves in unlikely places."
Take the jack pine, a common tree in our northern woods. The tree needs intense fire to release its seeds from the pine cones. "Without the heat, the future of the species would be in danger," says Mohammed. "Plants benefit from trial, by fire or otherwise. These hardships toughen them and make them hardy."
Plants also teach us the importance of cooperation, like the partnerships between fungi and algae in lichen, or algae and corals in coral reefs – productive relationships that result from working together with others very different than ourselves.
Some plants colonize harsh environments, such as the algae that live in hot springs, surviving temperatures that would cook most living things. They prove that it is possible to thrive in seemingly impossible situations.
"It's much the same for people," Mohammed says. "We too can benefit from occasional challenges in our own lives, as many who have experienced upheavals might attest."
"Catnip and Kerosene Grass" is published in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario by Candlenut Books,