Meet The Tropicalist, Obsessed with Plants and Why We Should Pay Attention to Them

I first met The Tropicalist early in 2016. Since then, I have followed with interest as she launched her online publication, thetropicalist.press and look forward each month to receiving their newsletter. We recently enjoyed a coffee together and I was enthralled by her adventures to various countries and climes, seeking and researching plants, in depth, and writing about all they bring to society and modern civilisation. I for one, have never thought too much about it until I spoke to her.

Of herself, she says that she is:

“A rainforest baby, in love with nature, forced to adapt to the modern world and not liking it one bit. I’m done with all that now and I’m going home.”

I’m glad she has gone home because through her, we can once again get in touch with what is more meaningful. Our interview with The Tropicalist was an insightful look into the life of someone most passionate about nature, how we impact it and how it impacts us.

This one's really bizarre: introducing the toilet bowl Nepenthes or Nepenthes lowii. It attracts birds and insects with the nectar it secretes from the hairs lining the lid of its pitcher. As the animals feed on this sweet honey, they perch on the substantial lip of the pitcher and poop into it. These droppings, rather than the insect/bird itself, are the preferred diet of the plant, hence the name "toilet bowl." Image from Instagram @the_tropicalist_
This one’s really bizarre: introducing the toilet bowl Nepenthes or Nepenthes lowii. It attracts birds and insects with the nectar it secretes from the hairs lining the lid of its pitcher. As the animals feed on this sweet honey, they perch on the substantial lip of the pitcher and poop into it. These droppings, rather than the insect/bird itself, are the preferred diet of the plant, hence the name “toilet bowl.” Image from Instagram @the_tropicalist_

Why did you start the tropicalist press?

It started out of a longing for something more meaningful. There’s a line from a song by one of my favourite bands, “Buy this car to drive to work, drive to work to pay for this car.” I think it pretty much sums up, for me at least, the contradictions in the “aspirational” lifestyle. 

Why do you feel so strongly that we, as a society must take another look at nature and what it can provide or teach us?

I am the poster child for globalisation: I come from nowhere but can live anywhere. And you know, if you’re like that, you typically have only a transactional relationship with places. If bad things happen to the place you live in, you move elsewhere–you don’t stay and try to make things better. To be honest, it’s really not a great way to be. 

I envy people with a strong sense of place and history. You know, the people who have strong ties to their community and who know the names not only of all the people but all the trees and plants in their neighbourhood. There is a grace and harmony to their lives that eludes those of us living the frenetic modern lifestyle.

I know it’s fashionable now to think of people like this as small-minded or unsophisticated, but the way I see it, they have something really precious. We all had it once, many of us have lost it, but hopefully through education and a concerted effort, we can regain some of it.

Strobilanthes from the Shola grasslands bordering the rainforests on India's Western Ghats. Today, these endangered shrubs have been mostly cleared away for commercial plantations, but they can still be seen on certain peaks. They burst into flower en masse every 7 years, carpeting the ghats with blue flowers. They are next due to flower in 2022. They are considered sacred by local tribes, who also use them to cure stomach ailments. Image from Instagram @the_tropicalist_:
Strobilanthes from the Shola grasslands bordering the rainforests on India’s Western Ghats. Today, these endangered shrubs have been mostly cleared away for commercial plantations, but they can still be seen on certain peaks. They burst into flower en masse every 7 years, carpeting the ghats with blue flowers. They are next due to flower in 2022. They are considered sacred by local tribes, who also use them to cure stomach ailments. Image from Instagram @the_tropicalist_

What is it about plants that you feel is relevant to everyone?

Human beings are part of an ecosystem. We’re not separate from nature, we are part of it. So when we tamper with that ecosystem, we will be affected. It’s just that with our very limited understanding of the workings of nature, we don’t know how this is all going to go down.

But of course, the eye can’t see what the mind doesn’t know. So if we don’t know anything about all the amazing plants that surround us, why would we care if they disappear?

What do you hope that your readers will take from thetropicalist.press?

A sense of place, but if not that, then at least some pretty flowers!

Your travels are amazing. How do you find out about these rare plants and what inspires you to go visit them in situ?

Actually, I was born in the rainforest. I grew up with these plants.  Once, long ago, I learned how to live with them. Then, I learned to forget all about them. Now, I travel to try to recover what I’ve wilfully lost. Hopefully, it isn’t too late.

Thank you to The Tropicalist, I never realised that plants could mean so much more than just a pretty bouquet on my table. thetropicalist.press explores plants, civilisation, enlightenment. It is a fascinating and beautifully presented website, one that is well worth a visit.

The Tropicalist herself. Image provided by thetropicalist.press.
The Tropicalist herself. Image provided by thetropicalist.press.

For more information visit thetropicalist.press

Facebook: thetropicalist
Twitter: _The_Trop
Instagram: the_tropicalist_

 

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