FROM THE medieval lady of the manor with her rose garden to the pink-cheeked cottager with her marigolds and hollyhocks, women have been imposing nurture upon nature through the centuries. But those horticultural skills may have resulted in a gender divide.
Modern women are quicker at finding and correctly identifying plants, showed a study reported at the British Psychological Society conference yesterday in Winchester, Hampshire. This natural gardening ability is thought to be related to evolutionary programming, which required men to hunt while women were gatherers and foragers.
Dr Nick Neave, of the human cognitive neuroscience unit at the University of Northumbria, and co-author of the research, said: "This division of labour seems to have created a modern sex difference, with women being more predisposed to being better gardeners."
Dr Neave cites the BBC series Ground Force, where Alan Titchmarsh designs and plans the gardens while Charlie Dimmock chooses the right plants. "The division of labour on the programme works well," he said. "The study showed women were able to find `hidden' plants much more easily and were less likely to make mistakes."
The findings showed women were one-third more likely to identify plants correctly and, on average, 20 seconds faster than men. The results suggest men would have taken longer to get the correct greens for dinner and been more likely to poison their families, the professor said.
Dr Neave, who conducted the research with Ann Pickering, a botanist from the University of Newcastle, tested 25 men and 25 women on their ability indoors and outdoors to find common plants such as campanula and poppies.
None of the participants, all aged between 20 and 30, had gardening expertise. They were shown five different plants and asked to find the same plants as quickly as possible among at least 45 plants of a variety of species in both indoor arrays and on outside verges. …