Green Tropism and the Southwest Australian Flora: From the Green Man to the Ravensthorpe Woman

By John Ryan.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Green tropism is a gravitational leaning towards biological and metaphorical greenness. The colour green is symbolically linked to fertility and productivity as a metonym for nature. In contemporary discourse, greenness is a trope for the environmental and sustainability movements, as well as political eco-consciousness. American author Wallace Stegner, however, remarks on the difficulties of green speak, considering the perceptual inversions that occur in dry landscapes. To become appreciative of arid country and attain xeri-consciousness, he asserts, ‘you have to get over the color green.’ This presentation explores greenness as it occurs in historic and literary representations of Southwest Australian flora. Drawing from A.D. Hope’s poem ‘Australia’ and the journals of early European explorers to the Southwest of Western Australia, I note the prevalence of green tropism and its at times nefarious consequences for botanical conservation at biodiverse places such as Mt. Lesueur. Getting over the colour green in the Southwest has required the responses of writers and scientists such as Barbara York Main, George Seddon and Alex George, all of whom reconfigure the perception of green through an expanded descriptive vocabulary of indigenous flora towards a regional aesthetics of plants.

Keywords: Greenness, Aesthetic Philosophy, Australian Literature, Botanical Science

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.211-228. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.588MB).

Dr. John Ryan

PhD Candidate, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

John Ryan is a PhD Candidate in the School of Communications and Arts at Edith Cowan University. His dissertation explores the aesthetics of Southwest Australian flora. He is a graduate of Lancaster University’s M.A. in Environmental Philosophy.

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