Forget the poinsettia, and ditch the amaryllis; here are some much more interesting gifts to buy for your favorite green-thumb!
For the beginner, or the botanist who also enjoys cooking, consider a potted herb garden. These handy boxed gifts usually contain a planter, soil, and seeds for 4-6 varieties of common herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, and basil). Another easy-care choice for novices is a cactus. Cacti come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and many produce beautiful blooms.
For more advanced plant-lovers, how about a bonsai tree or an orchid? These exotics add grace and beauty to any home, but require expert care to thrive. Another popular choice is carnivorous plants such as Venus flytraps and sundews; kids especially can't take their eyes away from the grisly sight of a plant capturing and eating some hapless insect!
If you're worried that a plant might not survive shipment to your recipient's house, or feel that they already have more than enough of them (!), consider a book on botany instead. Good options include:
1. "The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World" by Michael Pollan. This horizon-shifting book examines the relationship between humans and four different plants (potatoes, tulips, marijuana, and apples) from the plants' perspective!
2. "Botany Illustrated: Introduction to Plants, Major Groups, Flowering Plant Families" by Janice Glimn-Lacy and Peter B. Kaufman. Although this is a serious text by a couple of actual botanists, newcomers to botany will enjoy coloring in the 130 pages of intricate plant illustrations.
3. "Botany for Gardeners" by Brian Capon. Not just for gardeners, this book provides a straight-forward introduction to plant physiology and function in terms that anyone can understand.
Afraid they might already have those botany books? Here are a few more ideas.
What about an art print? Flowers and other plants are objects of beauty, so they feature in a lot of artwork. For your botanist, consider buying a print of botany illustrations, or a close-up photograph of a plant. Georgia O'Keeffe's floral works are always a tasteful choice.
Endangered plants get less attention than animals in that predicament, but they're no less important. If your gift recipient is worried about the impact of deforestation, why not make a donation in their name to a replanting organization? Check out "Trees for the Future" at http://www.plant-trees.org/projects.htm, for starters.
Finally, if your friend or relative is interested in even the smallest aspects of plants, Edmund Scientific sells sets of Botany Slides for Microscopes. Varieties include "Roots and Stems of Flowering Plants," and the racy "Spores and Pollen Grains." This gift will really impress the hard-core botany hobbyist!