The timely new journal, Plant Perspectives, published by The White Horse Press, reflects the steady ascent of interdisciplinary plant studies especially over the last decade. Increasingly, the botanical world presents an enthralling area of research, writing, reflection and collaboration. Many scientific studies reveal that human beings and other creatures have more in common with plants than previously recognised. Studies demonstrate, for instance, that when a predator consumes a leaf, a plant alerts other leaves using some of the same signal pathways employed by animals.
To a considerable extent, the field of interdisciplinary plant studies is informed—and inspired—by the wealth of research into plant consciousness, behavior, learning, communication, sensing and kin recognition. As an example, phytoacoustic studies reveal how plants make intelligent use of sound to improve ecological fitness. They remember sonic patterns for strategic purposes. As a non-centralised process, plant memory enhances adaptation to demanding environments.
Plants also lead sound-rich lives. They perceive vibrations, change their behaviours in response to acoustic cues and transmit their own sonic signatures. In other words, they use sound with intention. Sound and other sensory expressions are important to individual and transgenerational memory in the botanical world. As ecologist Suzanne Simard’s work in British Columbia shows, in fungal systems known as mycorrhizal networks, the rhizosphere—or root-soil interface—makes forest memory networks possible.
My interest in joining Plant Perspectives as Editor reflects my background in interdisciplinary plant studies with a focus on Oceania and Southeast Asia. Between 2008–15, I lived in Southwest Australia where I studied the representation of the region’s botanical diversity in literary, cultural and media texts. The Southwest is among the world’s most biodiverse regions. With 6,000 native plant species and an endemism rate of about 80%, it’s a Shangri-La for plant enthusiasts like me.
After the Southwest, I switched to the opposite coast of Australia and the New England Tablelands of New South Wales, a region also known for the uniqueness of its plants. Then, during the coronavirus pandemic, I found myself in Indonesia for almost two years, immersed in the world of tropical flora. Although I have many interests related to plants, botany and human-flora relations, I’m particularly fascinated by poetry about plants as well as the poetry of plants themselves—that is, their poiesis or capacity for creative making and dynamic transformation.
Interdisciplinary plant studies represents a range of emerging and established fields including plant humanities, human-plant studies, critical plant studies, plant philosophy, plant geography, interactive botanical art and ethnobotany, among others. When opened for submissions in 2023, Plant Perspectives will offer a forum for advancing the growth of interdisciplinary plant studies. The journal promises to enhance the visibility of botanical life in the arts, humanities, education and social sciences in dialogue with scientific approaches to plants.
I’m thrilled to contribute to the growth of Plant Perspectives. My role as journal Editor will enable me to work with a distinguished cohort of scholars committed to understanding plants from new points of view. As the title implies, one objective of the journal is to envision the possibility of seeing the world from the perspectives of plants, thus shifting away from the constant imposition of human perspectives on them. I’m also excited to work with a growing international Editorial Board representing Australia, Germany, India, Italy, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries.
A strong reason for my keen interest in stepping in as Editor of Plant Perspectives is the opportunity to work with James Rice, Dr Sarah Johnson and everyone at The White Horse Press, a wonderful independent academic publisher I’ve known about for decades. As a Master’s student in Values and Environment at Lancaster University years ago, I read lots of articles in Environmental Values, WHP’s leading interdisciplinary environmental journal published since 1992.
This leads me to another reason for taking on editorship of Plant Perspectives. The journal’s Deputy Editor, Dr Isis Brook, is my former Master’s supervisor at Lancaster University who introduced me to environmental phenomenology and encouraged my interest in interdisciplinarity during a formative time in my academic life.
John Charles Ryan, PhD, is Adjunct Associate Professor at Southern Cross University, Australia, and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the Nulungu Institute, University of Notre Dame, Australia. His planty books include The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence (2021, co-edited), Plants in Contemporary Poetry: Ecocriticism and the Botanical Imagination (2018, authored) and The Language of Plants: Science, Philosophy, Literature (2017, co-edited). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org