In case you haven't noticed, we (still very much) LOVE plants!


Plant Love Stories (PLS) began on February 14th, 2018 as a way to collect and share stories about the plants that shape our lives. To celebrate Valentine's Day and our fourth birthday, we bring you another year of original plant-y valentines, also known as #PlantHeartArt.


This year we are so excited to feature a new bouquet of plant artists. These artists are super-plant lovers who participated in a Plant Love Story Challenge hosted by the Phipps Conservatory and Botanic Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA this winter. The PLS Challenge asked students to tell a story–using prose or poetry–about a plant that has meaning to them or that has impacted their lives and attach an original photograph or piece of artwork depicting the plants. We have picked out some (but not all!) of our favorite pieces of original art to feature in this year’s #PlantHeartArt. Stay tuned and we will be sharing more of our favorite stories and submissions in the coming months as well. We want to thank Jennifer Torrance, the Science Education Coordinator at Phipps, for her vision and efforts to create the Plant Love Story Challenge as part of Phipp’s year-long Fairchild Challenge, as well as all the teachers and students who participated in this year’s challenge.


We hope these valentines make you smile, and we hope that you will share them with the people and plants in your life. And, because we know you have a lot of people to spread plant love to, we welcome you to go retro and also use our 2019, 2020, or 2021 valentines! To find printable PDFs of all the valentines, click here!


Happy Valentine's Day from Team PLS!


[Student art, stories, names, and grades used with permission.]




Artist: Sydney Maegle (grade 7)

You are berry fun to be around, Valentine

Bio: Sydney is a seventh grader at Keystone Oaks Middle School and this original artwork accompanied the story “The Strawberry Plant”. Sydney and Keystone teammates earned third place for their submission to the Plant Love Story Middle School Challenge.



Artist: Leela Norman (grade 5)

Valentine, you make me c-huckleberry much!

Bio: Leela is a fifth grader at Edgewood Elementary STEAM Academy and this original artwork accompanied the story “Huckleberries are Grrrrrrrrrrrate”. Leela and teammate Adelaide Scott (grade 2)--who submitted the story ‘My flower garden’--earned a Judge’s Choice prize for their submission to the Plant Love Story Elementary School Challenge.



Artist: Paul Everson (grade 3)

My tree fruits for you, Valentine

Bio: Paul is a third grader at Wilkins Elementary STEAM Academy and this original artwork accompanied the poem “Lots of fruit”. Paul’s submission earned a Judge’s Choice prize in the Plant Love Story Elementary School Challenge.



Artist: Adithri Pingali (grade 8)

Guava be my valentine

Bio: Adithri is an eighth grader at Penn Middle School. Adithri and teammates Caeley Simon and Ethan Goldsworthy (also both grade 8) earned second place for their submission to the Plant Love Story Middle School Challenge.


Artist: Kate Malley (grade 11)

Your love is Trilli-YUMMY

Bio: Kate is an eleventh grader at Penn-Trafford High School and this original artwork accompanied a story written by teammate Mark Harris (grade 11). Kate, Mark, and their teammates Kristina Heins and Delena Steimer (grade 11)--who drew artwork (Kristina) and wrote (Delena) the story ‘Austrocylindropuntia subulata f. cristata’--earned first place for their submission to the Plant Love Story High School Challenge.



Artist: Anthony Longo (grade 6)

Aloe-ve you so much!

Bio: Anthony is a sixth grader at Queen of Angels Catholic School and this original artwork accompanied the story “Aloe” that was submitted as part of the school’s submission to the Plant Love Story Middle School Challenge. Plant Love Stories wants to give Anthony a special PLS Shout Out for this adorable and loving aloe plant!



Artist: Adrienne Morgan (grade 3

We make a great ‘pear’

Bio: Adrienne is a third grader at Tenth Street School and this original artwork accompanied the story “Michigan Days”. Adrienne and teammate Riley Matson Graham (grade 3)--who submitted the story ‘The Woods So Beautiful--earned a Judge’s Choice prize for their submission to the Plant Love Story Elementary School Challenge.



Artist: Delaney Race (grade 7)

Holly cow, you’re cute!

Bio: Delaney is a seventh grader at Penn-Trafford High School and this original artwork accompanied a story written by teammate Addie M. Delaney, Addie, and their teammate Julianna Eshman (grade 7)--who submitted a poem about blueberries--earned a Special Merit for their submission to the Plant Love Story Middle School Challenge.



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By Abby Dean

Seventeen years. I’ve lived seventeen years without my father in my life. I was only three years old at the time, but I still remember the influx of sympathy flowers crowding around our kitchen sink after his funeral. Flashes of memory were all I had left of him: whispers of his voice singing to me until I fell asleep, an orange beard tickling my cheek when he kissed me goodnight, his form bent over a flower bed in the spring, planting away to make our new house a welcoming home.


It is that vision of him planting flowers that I reminisce on most. He planted orange lilies that bloomed in the summer, warming our yard with tiny bursts of sun. Those orange lilies were his favorite flower, and quickly grew to become mine as well. Their bright orange color always reminded me of his hair, and whenever they were in sight, it was like a reminder that he was with me.


The beauty of the lilies he planted is that they still come up, year after year, not in the spring, but in the summer. After everything else has bloomed and died, these lilies emerge from nothing and persevere. It is a reminder that when it seems like you’ve hit the end of your rope, there is more beauty left to uncover when you least expect it. That has always been my outlook on life in the wake of losing my father; living life to the fullest, even if it seems like everyone else has already bloomed - there is always more waiting for you, so make the best of the time you have.


Flowers are often an image that people decorate their bodies with through tattoos and art, which stands as a testament to their symbolism in our lives. In almost every important milestone in our lives, we can find flowers: weddings, anniversaries, funerals, graduations, performances - you name it. Flowers have embedded themselves into our culture in very personal and deeply meaningful ways.


These lilies hold a special meaning that only my family can see, and they have found a very meaningful place in our hearts. My sister and I both want to immortalize the sentiment we feel about the tenacity of these beautiful summer-blooming lilies by getting small matching tattoos of an orange lily together. Though I will not have my dad to walk me down the aisle during my wedding, I’ll be comforted by the orange lilies that will adorn my bouquet. Even though it has been 17 years since I saw my dad smile, the triumph of the flowers in my yard growing every year helps to bring a smile to my face and remember him fondly. Plants, like people, will come and go in this world, so make sure you take a moment to stop and smell the flowers every once in a while.

 

Abby is 20 years old and a third-year biology major at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. She originally hails from West Chester, Pennsylvania.


Photos courtesy the author.


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by Trezalka Budinsky

Every summer brilliant blue ribbons would hug the roads and sidewalks of my hometown Bratislava, Slovakia. That iridescent blue sprouting out of the hot, gravelly soil and mirroring the clear sky above was no other than the chicory flower (Cichorium intybus). Every sunny morning from June to October the blue flowers would accompany me on all of my walks. Besides its obvious beauty, the flower stood out to me because of a story my mother told me when I was very young, which I will attempt to paraphrase here:


A beautiful, young maiden with Nordic blue eyes had to bid farewell to her beau who had gone off to war. Every morning she would walk out to the spot by the road where she last saw him and wait for his return. Months turned to years with her beau nowhere in sight. Exhausted and overwhelmed by sadness she finally sunk to the ground on that very spot by the road, doomed to forever wait for her love in the form of a blue flower. That flower was given the Czechoslovak name ‘čakanka’ (the root word ‘čakať’ means ‘to wait’ in English).

Much later I found out there were multiple versions to the origin legend of chicory, but most of them involve a girl, usually by the roadside.


After I moved away from my hometown to Pennsylvania to start university, I looked for things that would bring me constancy and continuity—as one away from home does. I was surprised to find there was no lack of the European-native chicory in the Eastern U.S. In fact, chicory is widespread in all 48 mainland U.S. states and Canada. And just like in Bratislava, its favorite place to grow is by the roadside. The origin legend does a great job of teaching us where chicory likes to grow, but why does it thrive in these inhospitable environments?


Chicory thrives on gravelly roadsides with full sun exposure for a few reasons. First, the roadside is inhospitable to many plants. So, by growing on roadsides, chicory avoids intense competition for resources with other plants. Chicory is also a plant that has been found to grow best in soils covered with rocks or lumps of clay, like those on the sides of roads. Rocky soils benefit chicory because the areas beneath the rocks retain moisture and provide a safe place for it to grow and establish its roots (see a full study about this). Although chicory is non-native in the U.S., only a handful of states recognize it as an invasive weed. That may be because it’s not a strong competitor and usually grows in scattered populations rather than taking over large areas for itself.


On my quest to get to know this resilient and stunning plant, I was surprised to find that chicory has been used as a crop and ground cover for centuries, if not millennia. The whole plant is edible by humans and livestock, including its roots, leaves, and flowers. In fact, chicory was most likely brought to North America on purpose because it was such a beloved crop. One of its most common uses was as a substitute or additive to coffee. Chicory’s roasted and ground-up roots make a drink very similar to coffee in taste and color but without the caffeine. This discovery unlocked a childhood memory for me: a casual morning at my grandma’s with a warm cup of “kid coffee,” as she liked to call it. It was something she’d buy for me every time I stayed over so I wouldn’t feel left out when she drank her morning cup. Sure enough, after some web scouring, I found that the “kid coffee” was chicory coffee.


Even though I have conflicting feelings about invasive plants, I’m glad that chicory is here in the U.S. with me, every summer growing along roads and footpaths, reminding me of my Slovak roots. And now, more than ever, I can’t wait for next fall to collect some chicory roots and drink a cup of my childhood (click here to make your own chicory coffee).

 

Trezalka is 22 and a senior at the University of Pittsburgh (graduating summer 2022) majoring in Ecology and Evolution.



Photos :

Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

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