Robert McFarlane was speaking on Radio4’s today programme this morning about how young people (between the ages of seven and eleven) are unable to recognise or identify common plant and animal species. These included the kingfisher, a newt and a weeping willow. Indeed the small sample interviewed had not heard of either the kingfisher or the weeping willow and the clue that baskets were made from the tree did not help in making the connection with willow.
I find that even adolescents often have little awareness or knowledge of the natural world around them. Unsurprisingly, this lack of knowledge extends to the plants that are used in aromatherapy. Chamomile is one that none of my young clients are able to describe. Rosemary is known by only just over half. While most recognise the aroma of Lavender, again many could not identify it. The main oils where the source could be recognised I have found do are not native to the UK and are the citrus oils such as lemon and orange though even there most do not know the difference between Limes and Linden Blossom and think they are related.
I often talk with my clients about the plants that my oils come from in order that if they buy oils for their own personal use they can make better choices about which ones to obtain and where to source them.
Does this make a difference? I like to think so for the adolescents I work with. I hope that their interest in the natural world is stimulated by knowing what the oils can do for them.
I also find it sad that many words describing our natural world are no longer being included in children’s dictionaries. Words such as acorn, willow, kingfisher etc and I wonder if the main work on changing this lack of interest in the natural world needs to be done with adults or children?
The bay tree, one of many that produce essential oils.