Lockdown highlights critical role of plants, Charles tells virtual Chelsea

The coronavirus lockdown has highlighted the “critical role” plants play in health and wellbeing, the Prince of Wales has said in a message for the virtual Chelsea Flower Show.

Many people have reconnected with nature at home, gained a heightened appreciation of their local green spaces and discovered a new love of gardening and food production, Charles said.

The heir to the throne, who is a long-time advocate of climate action, also said that healthy plants and trees are “vitally important” in mitigating climate change by storing carbon.

But just as the world has realised the importance of plants, “we have managed to engineer a global plant health crisis”, he warned.

And he urged visitors to the online Chelsea Flower Show to take simple actions themselves to prevent the spread of plant pests and diseases.

He said: “In recent weeks the coronavirus lockdown has highlighted the critical role plants play in our own health and wellbeing and quite a few of us will have had the opportunity to reconnect with nature at home.

“I know many people have discovered a heightened appreciation for their local green space and a new-found love for gardening and food produce,” which he said is a “welcome outcome from this desperate situation”.

“I also know I’m not alone in feeling plants and trees play an utterly valuable and indispensable role in our lives.

“And, in the midst of this tragic health crisis, it’s easy to forget the worsening climate crisis, the catastrophic effects of which have been dramatically felt in recent months, with floods and fires wreaking havoc on communities around the globe.”

In the online video message, he said many governments had unveiled plans for tree planting and restoring wetlands to store carbon emissions.

“From every angle plants play an absolutely vital role in our existence, but the ultimate irony is, just as we are realising this, we have also managed to engineer a global plant health crisis,” he said.

He pointed to the loss of millions of elm trees, the spread of ash dieback, increasing awareness of threats to oaks and xylella threatening herbaceous plants.

And he said: “Our current situation shows just how quickly diseases and pathogens of all types are spread around the planet due to the hyper-connected nature of today’s world, and with such tragic effect.”

Speaking during the international year of plant health, he said greater caution and vigilance are needed to ensure pests and diseases do not spread.

And gardeners can take their own actions to protect plant life, he added.

These include cleaning their tools, buying plants from reputable British growers and which have ideally been grown here, resisting the urge to buy plants while travelling abroad, and reporting anything unusual in their own garden.

– Charles’s video message forms part of the virtual Chelsea Flower Show, taking place online this week in place of the physical event which was cancelled due to the pandemic.

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