Monster plants: the vegetal political ecology of Lacandonia schismatica

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This article presents a story about a plant – Lacandonia schismatica – which subverted disciplinary traditions in botany and reconfigured its geopolitical orders of knowledge. To tell this story, we focus on Lacandonia's 'plantiness', Lesley Head and colleagues' (2012) concept to signify each kind of plant's unique biophysical characteristics, capacities, and potentialities, and through which they co-produce the world. We trace how L. schismatica intervened in, and (re)configured processes of knowledge production, environmental politics, and identity formation in the Lacandon Forest, Chiapas, Mexico, where it was found. Lacandonia's plantiness came into being through sudden macromutations; this unexpected but viable plant species participated in reviving an old debate in evolutionary biology: macroevolution versus gradualism. We also analyze how Lacandonia's plantiness compelled shifts in environmental politics in Chiapas and identity formation in Frontera Corozal, the Chol community where L. schismatica was first located. We conclude with a brief reflection on the implications of vegetal ethics for addressing contemporary environmental crises.

Keywords: plantiness, political ecology, non-human, Lacandon Rainforest, Mexico

How to Cite: Durand, L. & Sundberg, J. (2022) “Monster plants: the vegetal political ecology of Lacandonia schismatica”, Journal of Political Ecology. 29(1). doi: