When you first hear the word, the thing that might come to mind is the very ‘in’ and aesthetically pleasing house plant. Planted in pretty ceramic pots, sitting on delicate, raw, wooded bedroom shelving, or falling elegantly from a hanging planter. These are the things we automatically think of. And that’s okay. But it’s not the only function or classification of plants.
Plants are much more than a pretty object in a room or a feeling of wellness. Plants are complex and diverse (just like the M-CO team). There are millions of different types of plant species from the Dracaena trifasciata to the simple tomato. There are so many types of plants that not even scientists have discovered them all.
To make life easier, plants can be divided into six categories:
- Non-vascular plants,
- Seed bearing,
- Spore bearing,
Still don’t quite get it? No worries. Let’s simplify it a little further….
Plants can also be classified as:
- Herbaceous plants,
- Woody shrubs,
But in short, according to Collins Dictionary, “A plant is a living thing that grows in the earth and has a stem, leaves, and roots.”
But why is any of this important?
Plants are an essential resource to life on earth. We rely on plants for the simple act of breathing. Plants are so important that the United Nations designated the 12th of May as International Day of Plant Health (IDPH) to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development.
Photo: M-CO in-office living wall
At M-CO, we understand the critical role plants play in both our environment our health, and society. Currently, we’re working with the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine on their Project Woodland, to shape a new shared vision and develop a new strategy for trees and forests in Ireland. Over a series of public consultations, we will support the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine in gathering public perception on forestry in Ireland and intel on how we can reach the government ambition of 18% forest cover by 2030.
Currently, only 11% of Irish land is covered by forests, compared to the EU average of 38%. As one participant told us during a consultation workshop, that’s quite staggering considering there was once a time in Ireland, when the red squirrel was able to jump continuously from one tree to the other without touching the ground. That’s quite the analogy.
But why do we need the increase of 7% forest coverage?
- Climate - Ireland’s forests absorb about 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, storing carbon in trees, soil, and wood products, and releasing oxygen. It has been estimated that by using just 1 tonne of wood in construction instead of concrete or steel it is possible to avoid 2.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions on average
- Biodiversity - forests are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth. Our forests serve as great corridors and refuge for many native species of flora and fauna
- Economy – about 12,000 people in Ireland are employed across the forest and wood products sector. These sectors contribute €2.3 billion to the national economy and generate annual exports of over €350 million. Forest creation can provide opportunities for income and enterprise diversification, particularly in rural areas and for farmers
- Community & wellness - Visits to Coillte-owned forests increased by nearly 40% during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 2.2 million people visiting Coillte’s top 50 forests between March and December 2020. Pandemic or no pandemic, forests offer beautiful spaces of respite, excursion, and exploration. More forests = more relaxation, more activity, and more fun!
While trees are only one small, but physically big, classification of plants, we recognise and want to encourage an appreciation and engagement in their management and protection in Ireland. We hope by now you can understand their importance.
Plants as a whole offer a multitude of benefits to society and most importantly, to life on earth. By tackling the protection of each classification one step at a time, we become closer to an overall safer and healthier environment and global society.
We hope through this article you’ve discovered a newfound appreciation for plants and will attempt to actively support their protection and development.
Happy International Day of Plant Health!
See you next time.
PS. if you’re on the hunt for a new podcast recommendation and we’ve managed to spark your interest in forestry in Ireland, check out Episode 4: the Wild Atlantic Rainforest of the Shaping New Mountains series by Irish Wildlife Trust.
Get a full list of our podcast recommendations by following M-CO “What Inspires M-CO Lunchtime Chat?” playlist on Spotify.