fbpx April 2021: Human-Plant Relationships | The Morton Arboretum

April 2021: Human-Plant Relationships


Advertisement for Human+Nature Exhibition

The Morton Arboretum Welcomes Daniel Popper Exhibition, Human+Nature


Over the past year, the pandemic has brought significant challenges to communities, but it has also reinforced The Morton Arboretum’s belief that trees provide humans with healing, joy, and a connection to the natural world in addition to the many physical resources that trees supply. Visitors to The Morton Arboretum will have the opportunity to explore the deep relationship between trees and people through its exhibition, Human+Nature, opening Spring 2021. Created by artist Daniel Popper, the exhibition includes five 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures located throughout the Arboretum. The sculptures will encourage guests to examine their own relationships with trees as they encounter the larger-than-life artworks.


The Sterling Morton Library has resources to help visitors explore the relationships between nature and people.


In Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, author Roger Deakin blends reflection and natural history to explore how trees manifest in nature, in culture, and in people:

Book cover of Wildwood by Roger Deakin


The Chinese count wood as the fifth element, and Jung considered trees an archetype. Nothing can compete with these larger-than-life organisms for signalling the changes in the natural world. They are our barometers of the weather and the changing seasons. We tell the time of year by them. Trees have the capacity to rise to the heavens and to connect us to the sky, to endure, to renew, to bear fruit, and to burn and warm us through the winter….Wildwood is a quest for the residual magic of trees and wood that still touches most of us not far beneath the surface of our daily lives. (pp. 9-10)



Mike Shanahan delves specifically into the the fig tree’s influence on humans in his book, Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees:

Book cover of Gods, Wasps and Stranglers by Mike Shanahan


Over millions of years these trees have shaped our world, influenced our evolution, nourished our bodies and fed our imaginations. The best could be yet to come. Fig trees could help us restore ravaged rainforests, stem the loss of wild species and even limit climate change. They could build vital bridges between scientific and faith-based world views. Their story reminds us of what we all share. It warns us of what we could lose. (p.11)



Access these books and other resources about the relationship between humans and plants through the Sterling Morton Library and its e-book collection.

Book cover of Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori

Bynum, Helen. Remarkable Plants That Shape Our World, The University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Cook, Diane. Wise Trees, Abrams, 2017.

Deakin, Roger. Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, Free Press, 2009. (Also available as e-book)

Drori, Jonathan. Around the World in 80 Trees, Laurence King Publishing, 2018. (Also available as e-book)

Harris, Stephen. Planting Paradise: Cultivating the Garden, 1501-1900, Bodleian Library, 2011.

Kimmerer, Robin. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Milkweed Editions, 2020. (Also available as e-book)

Langenheim, Jean H. Botany: Plant Biology and Its Relation to Human Affairs, J. Wiley, 1982.

Leland, John. Readings in Wood, What the Forest Taught Me, University of South Carolina Press, 2015. (Available as e-book)

Lewis, Charles A. Green Nature/Human Nature: The Meaning of Plants in Our Lives, University of Illinois Press, 1996.

Book cover of Between Earth and Sky by Nalini Nadkarni

Marder, Michael. The Philosopher's Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium, Columbia University Press, 2014. (Also available as e-book)

Nadkarni, Nalini. Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees, University of California Press, 2008. (Also available as e-book)

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World, Random House, 2001.

Robbins, Heather. The Wisdom of Wildflowers, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016. (Available as e-book)

Rogers-Iverson, Kristen. Interwoven: Junipers and the Web of Being, University of Utah Press, 2017. (Available as e-book)

Shanahan, Mike. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016. (Also available as e-book)

Simoons, Frederick J. Plants of Life, Plants of Death, University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.

Stone, Peter C. The Untouchable Tree: An Illustrated Guide to Earthly Wisdom and Arboreal Delights, Skyhorse Publishing Company, 2008. (Available as e-book)

Stuart-Smith, Sue. The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature, Scribner, 2020. (Also available as e-book)

Book cover of The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith

Tompkins, Peter. The Secret Life of Plants, Harper & Row, 1973.

Ward, Anthony. Being with Flowers: Floral Art as Spiritual Practice, Quarry Books, 2017. (Also available as e-book)


With the barcode on the back of your Sterling Morton Library card, you’re able to access these and other titles from the Library’s e-book collection. Not sure where your library card is or not yet registered as a library patron? Please contact library@mortonarb.org and one of our librarians will assist you!