Amid this pandemic, I see many people sharing photos of their plants online. Some of these people are my Facebook friends who have become plant collectors. They call themselves “plantitas” and “plantitos” (plant aunties and uncles) to signify their affection for plants. In fact, there is a “10-day Plant Photo Fever Challenge” which prompts a plantita or plantito to post 10 images of various plants and flood Facebook with good vibes and natural color. Post the photos without captions. Nominate someone else to take the challenge.

As someone who has been planting since my younger years, I find it fascinating when friends show off plants such as the round yellow and red grafted moon cacti or the black prince succulent that looks like a lotus flower but is actually composed of brown and green leaves which seem artificial. Others showcase their rare, expensive plants such as Badjiang, Alocacia sanderiana and Alocasia zebrina that have beautiful, vibrant and heart-shaped leaves.

Prior to the pandemic, I never saw this kind of enthusiasm for plants and for planting. People seem to be acting to save the planet. However, there are some planting practices that I find disturbing, practices of which I was also guilty.

For instance, demand for plastic and clay pots is increasing. I find this bothersome because this can mean that people may be opting for new containers instead of using recyclables such as empty containers, pet bottles, and tin cans as pots. The problem with this is that there is also an increase in the consumption of raw materials to produce new plant containers. As stated by plastics.americanchemistry.com, raw materials for manufacturing plastics are oil and natural gas. This cannot help the planet. It clashes with “reducing consumption” and aggravates global warming.

I understand the eagerness of our plantitas and plantitos to have more plants, especially rare ones. According to The Guardian, the lockdown in the Philippines “helped drive demand for greenery among Filipinos who were longing for nature.” But alarmingly, officials noted that some sellers are sourcing endangered plants from mountains and forests or plant poaching to cater to demand.

New plantitas and plantitos are not aware of this. They have the tendency to buy endangered plants. Plant poaching disrupts ecosystems, depriving insects and birds of food and shelter and threatening them as species.

Plant poaching is barely covered by mainstream media. Perhaps, this is due to the idea that plants are not active social beings and that they can flourish everywhere, exempted from exploitation.

Take for example the case of Badjiang or Giant taro, a photo of which a famous personality posted on social media with its selling price. This led the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to warn people not to collect the plant that is critically endangered. According to Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez, the environment department’s director in the Zamboanga Peninsula, “collectors run the risk of paying the penalty ranging from P100,000 to P1 million if caught getting plants considered as critically endangered.” This, I believe, is effective to discourage plant poachers. And this makes plantitas and plantitos in selecting plants to tend.

I know that there are more planting practices that are not quite helpful for our planet which I did not mention here. I would like all of us to be aware of them. I would like to think that as we enjoy planting and adore the beauty and happiness plants can bring, we continue to rethink our practices to ensure that they truly protect the earth as we care for it on behalf of the next generation.