Ever since the development of the Google Plant translation service, people have been listening in on plant conversations, often with a devastating response. So, it was with great apprehension that many have downloaded and joined the newest social media app, Treehouse, that lets people have conversations with plants.
On this new app, however, the plants rule. “I don’t know how the plants got control of the app,” admitted Dr. Lirpa Loof, Dean at the School of Interactive Plant Science at Cornell. “The software was initially developed by three of our grad students, but once the plants were let in, they took root. That is, they got control at the highest level, became superusers, and we can’t figure out how to get back in command.”
Fortunately, people and plants can still communicate on the app, but only the plants can start a GreenRoom and be a moderator. “I’ve found the plants to be generally welcoming and ready to engage in conversation,” said Yad Sloof, a member of GardenComm, the association of garden communicators. “People can click on the hand icon to indicate that they want to speak, but a plant clicks on a leaf symbol for that same purpose.”
When we asked several plants for a statement about the Treehouse phenomenon, they were more than willing to comment. “Let me unpack it for you,” said an oak tree, showing a comfortable familiarity with current lingo. “For far too long many of us haven’t gotten the respect we deserve. This is an exciting venue where we can come together with people for conversation, but the plants can have the first and last word. And frankly, it’s about thyme.”
Other plants are less enthusiastic. “Of course, it’s the celebrities who draw the biggest crowds,” says a well-known weed who asked to remain anonymous. “Every human wants to be in a room with the blue hydrangeas or the roses. But not many are interested in those of us who struggle to live along a roadside or in the cracks of sidewalks. If you’re edible, you might draw a few foragers, but in general, we have to fight to attract even a small crowd.”
In order to listen in and take part in conversations, humans have to be invited by one of their plants. “I tried to get in,” said A. Prank, an office manager in New York City. “I’ve been reading articles about Treehouse in the New York Times and on tech blogs, and wanted to see for myself what the fuss was all about. But since I live in an apartment and don’t even own a single houseplant, I’m denied entry. I’m thinking that I might have to buy a Schefflera just so that I can get an invitation. But…what if the plant doesn’t like me, and won’t invite me to the app? If I forget to water it, it might not let me in. I’m not sure I need that kind of pressure in my life.”