Medical Microfiction: Phytogenous

Texas Lawnmower Grassacre

The phytologometer, which allowed humans to understand the speech of plants, quickly revolutionized the world. First we learned that sunflowers had been asking for aloe, thanks to severe sunburn. Aloe also wanted aloe, but for “adult” reasons. Grapefruit, that surly bastard, had been telling us to piss off for years, although you don’t need a phytologometer to get the message.

Grass, it turns out, doesn’t take being mown and trampled on so lightly. It got its revenge last month, when the clippings in our lawnmowers turned the blades on us.

We’re still collecting the limbs of all the dead golfers.

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Grand Cayman Golf
Watch the grass beneath your feet! (Photo credit: Fevi in Pictures)

Today’s word is not phytologometer. That’s just a word I coined from its roots: plant (phyt-), speech(log-), measurement device(-meter). Greek and Latin are the Build-a-Bears of the medical world.

Phytogenous refers to anything having a plant origin. For example, it could refer to coal created from dead plant matter, or to a cotton t-shirt. In medical terminology, phytogenous probably refers to a disease or condition caused by plants. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter poison ivy, you had a phytogenous rash.

In today’s story, revenge is the phytogenous product. I imagine grass doesn’t take that well to its treatment, even if human tastes and preferences actually expand the reach of grass to areas it would never thrive naturally.

Which brings up an interesting question: why, exactly, do we surround our houses with well-kept lawns? What’s so special about this one plant that it dominates our aesthetic?

The history of lawns is a bit of a sad one. In the United States, native grass species were purposefully overrun by European varieties preferred by the incoming colonists. Did you know that the famous Kentucky Bluegrass comes from Europe? What false advertizing.

Additionally, the lawn aesthetic has some racial and class-based connotations. For many decades, having a properly groomed lawn was associated with social order, morality, and traditional values. It indicated the health and masculinity of the dude living there, and showed he knew how to control his property. Obviously this excluded anyone without the means to own property or pay for the upkeep of vast swaths of green. Well-maintained grass was a visual calling-card, a secret handshake indicating you were rich enough and white enough to matter.

Lawn
Uncut grass: does it look immoral to you? (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

To this day, there’s still some association between lawn care and morality. We sometimes look down on neighbors who let their lawns run wild, even though the plants are just doing what healthy plants do. Homeowner’s associations usually require residents of their neighborhoods to maintain grass lawns. Whenever someone gets creative and decides to, say, use artificial grass, the busybodies come out to reassert the social order.

And then there’s golf courses. Now don’t get me wrong: golf is a wonderful sport, and like with all sports, better than the behavior of its worst fans. But the sight of a golf course invokes the thought of country clubs, which at their worst, still preserve the race/class association of a lawn. Their membership fees and dress codes smack of class-based exclusion and carry the implicit message that money equals character. I’m also reminded of incidents like the Augusta National Golf Club’s infamous resistance toward letting women golf on the course, despite it being the home of the Masters.

It’s a good thing the grass hasn’t revolted against its oppressors. Yet.

What’s your opinion on lawns? What would be a better and more imaginative way to decorate our yards?

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