Friday, July 6, 2012

Making It Green

Why make a fake grape leaf? Of course, to add oomph to a garland of grapes for a fruit bowl table decoration. At the beach we have found a couple of lone grapes, a fake apple, a lime and a dozen plastic lemon juice squeezers. In our collection of fake plastic flora are fruit, leaves, mini-trees and flower buds. A four-leaf clover also shows up—lucky us.

Plastic trees are sprouting up in our neighborhoods, disguising cell towers as spruce trees or palms. We all want ample “bars.”

Simulacraceae is the satirical taxon given to fake plants by a group of botanists from Cornell and Yale. Plastic plants are new since the 1950’s but even ancient Egyptians made fake plants of metal and stone and papyrus. Plastic fruit endures, it’s plastic, it lasts forever, no refrigeration required . . .

AstroTurf®, Styrofoam®, Formica®, Plexiglas®—synthetic brand names to define the synthetic plastic world. They become so familiar that the product name becomes the actual name of the thing.

This gray piece of plastic grass is from a doormat. It’s AstroTurf®, invented by Monsanto and was first named Chemgrass. After its installation at the Astrodome in Houston it became known as AstroTurf®. In 1966 the Houston Oilers played the first pro-football game on 125,000 square feet of it. There may be dozens of manufacturers of artificial grass (Waterless Grass®, SYNlawn®, Easyturf®) but we call all of it astroturf.

These days Astroturf-ing is a political pejorative meaning a grass-roots movement artificially manipulated by a large public relations firm—a grass-roots movement with no roots.

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