References, links, excerpts.

Quinnell, R. (2020). Grieving With Plants, Dancing in the Leaves.  [Full copy

I don’t think I’m having an existential crisis but likely it is quite normal for everyone’s thoughts to wander to death from time to time, to remember those who passed away from us, to think about what it will be like to pass away. Given the global COVID-19 crisis these thoughts of death and dying have gone beyond fleeting musings. We have all be touched by death.

Whenever my thoughts wander to death, invariably my thoughts feature the botanical world. When my sister passed away, twenty years ago now, my mother was able to coax one of the white roses from my sister’s wreath into a healthy plant. I recognise that some might view this as dark. Thinking about how my mother was able to see the potential for a whole plant in that small piece of rose brings me peace. And in general, plants soothe me. I have begun scratching at why I have this sensation of peace when I stop to engage with the botanical world. Wondering what it is about plants that I find so reassuring. 

Quinnell, R. (2020). The Joy of Plants. Research Matters: Newsletter of the Australian Flora Foundation(31), 18 – 23. Retrieved from

Although I have taught botany for a long time, I feel obliged to share my knowledge, noting that I learn something new every year. I feel a bit sad knowing that I will never completely satisfy my botanical curiosity….

Throughout my career, I have deliberately shied away from the term ‘plant blindness’, as it is a deficit definition (the inability to see plants or to recognise differences between plant species), and have instead focussed on devising ways to improve engagement of both students and the broader campus community with the botanical world.

Degen, J. L., Rhodes, P., Simpson, S., & Quinnell, R. (2020). Humboldt, Romantic Science and Ecocide: a Walk in the Woods. Human Arenas. Retrieved from

How I love the coastal vegetation—the Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub—… is critically endangered… Urban development in this part of Sydney is aggressive … A family group passed—they had a wireless speaker blaring music. I found this strange; I prefer the drone of the cicadas….

To put the needs of (self-) selected individual humans above environmental well-being is a non-sense. To uncouple human existence from the ecology of the planet is stupid. This reaffirmed my position that humans are not my favourite species….. Today, I thought about my mother. She loved the coastline. On Sunday, it will be twelve years since she died. Her date of death is exactly 84 years after her birth making the date of her passing easy to remember. With time slowed, my mum came gently into focus. Then she faded. She oscillated in my thoughts—focused then fading—as I walked.