A Short but Pithy Botany Lesson for Dummies

This is a plant.  It is a living thing meaning that is very different from a stapler or hat rack. It needs watering.  If it doesn’t get enough water, it will likely wither and start to droop. This will make you feel guilty especially when you come home from vacation in Maine where you were lounging about for 10 days and realize that you didn’t water it or ask your neighbors to water it, which is a really easy thing to do if you are open to having a conversation with your neighbors*.  Very often if you water it, it can be revived.  This is an amazing process to witness so pay attention.  Within several hours, the withering leaves which you might mistake for complete plant death will  begin to perk up and the plant will live again.  If you actually stand there and watch it, you may be able to detect a slight bit of movement which will thrill you and make you feel connected to nature.  You might even coax the plant along – like touching its leaves gently.  Wow, nature is soft!  Oooh, and dusty.  This is not normal.  Plants should not be coated in dust,  This means your house may be dusty and you might want to think about tidying up a little.   And yes, you can dust your plant.  Perhaps from time to time you can move your plant around the house – try putting it in the sunlight.  Sometimes it will respond quite favorably.  Plants really enjoy sunlight.  This is because they use the energy of the sun to photosynthesize to help them create energy so they can live.  This is a natural process and is very cool to read about if you have the time.  You can also go back to your 8th grade science project on photosynthesis to jog your memory.  Ask your mom about this. It is likely she still has it in a box in the basement somewhere labeled “Kids’ memorabilia”, (unless she is not the sentimental type, in which case, it probably was incinerated long ago.)  It is also very natural for rain to help plants grow, but it doesn’t rain in your home (unless you live outside) or have very substantial leaks so that’s why watering is important.

It doesn’t take that much effort or expertise to ensure your plant stays alive.  Water it periodically, see how it likes more sunny areas of your home, and occasionally, talk to it, if that feels comfortable to you.  Soon enough, you may be ready for a garden.  This is more work than a houseplant and requires some extra tools like a hoe and shovel.  Don’t worry about those for now, just get a container of water and a dust rag and bid your fern a good morning.

*Conversations with neighbors can sometimes be uncomfortable, awkward or unwelcome if your neighbor is A. An annoying college student who plays loud music that you have requested be turned down. B. A “kooky cat lady” who every time you see her talks at length about her cat’s diabetes and the quality of its poops. Or C. A sullen and quiet brooding type who you are not sure you trust entirely, especially after watching him bring 3 futons into his house.  However,  our world is slowly turning into a world of strangers who co-exist on Facebook, so get to know your neighbor for goodness sake!  Would it kill you to bake a batch of cookies and bring it over?

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