NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — In recent years, a study at Texas A&M University that was published in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture found that taking care of plants can aid in stress reduction, alleviate symptoms of depression, aid with memory retention, better self-esteem, and make us generally more productive and creative.
Sprouting through the cracks of inner city New Orleans, a plant store owner in the Tremé community believes in the value of plant power and that plants can be of specific benefit for particular demographics of people.
Known affectionately as “Crazy Plant Bae,” Teresa Thomas, whose store bears the same name, aims to show how greenery has a lot to offer in terms of healing.
“Even before we were made to farm and to grow, we’ve always been an agriculture people, if you look back at our roots in Africa,” Thomas said. “Urban communities especially benefit from connecting to green space because it gives them a time and a place to disconnect from the pressures of society. It forces you to slow your day down, take that time out to water your plants, and tend to them.”
Thomas is a graduate of Louisiana State University’s agriculture department. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, she and her family began an online plant store which evolved and moved into their historic building in Tremé. They noticed that after quarantine and restriction, people of all types could benefit from a little plant therapy.
Tremé is one of the oldest African-American residential communities in the country. Thomas has noticed a trend of younger people, in general, taking up an interest in plants. She has also noticed that quite a few of these plant enthusiasts are Black.
“We are oftentimes out of control of where we live or how much money we make and our profession. Studies show that we always have a high level of stress. We have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure,” Thomas said. “It’s important for us to find ways for us to destress and by bringing life into the space we are bringing in positive energy.”
Thomas has many favorite types of plants, which include fruit and vegetable plants in the garden, but she also has a passion for indoor houseplants.
“I love Monsteras. They are the plants you think of when you think of anything tropical,” she said. “I also really like snake plants and ZZs. They are native to Africa. ZZs are very resilient plants. They don’t need a lot and give so much. I feel it’s representative of who we are as a people and where we come from. They are resilient like we have been.”
In 1989, NASA conducted a study that showed some popular houseplants as efficient air purifiers. Around 18 houseplants are on that list. Quietly, plants photosynthesize the carbon dioxide in homes and respire oxygen. The ability of plants to give fresh air is symbolic in a world where some feel suffocated under inequity.
“‘I can’t breathe’ resonated in our minds for so long because of what happened with Eric Garner and because of what it has represented in this country. Plant therapy and therapy of any kind makes selling and informing people of plants so much more meaningful for me,” Thomas said.
One of the most lavish features of Crazy Plant Bae store is a regal golden chair where people take photos of themselves and their plants. It’s surrounded by lush greenery and has been in music videos and Instagram photos. Thomas believes everyone, from plant enthusiasts to future ones should feel like a king or queen.