Gardening 🌿 teaches us many things, including patience and the acceptance of failures 🤦♀️. So too, it turns out, does emoji-making. In 2019 the Garden submitted 📩 a proposal for an official orchid emoji to the Unicode Consortium, the governing body that oversees emoji. One year later the orchid remains close to reaching its goal (more on that below 👇), but several other new plantmoji proposals were not so lucky. Here is a recap of our emoji efforts in 2020.
Plantmoji and the Pandemic
The hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic 😷 also created significant issues for the emoji approval ✅ process. The new emoji announced 📢 earlier in 2020 (Unicode 13.0) were released on schedule and should be available on most platforms right now. Because of the challenges created by the pandemic, 2021 will see a smaller release of emoji (Unicode 13.1), with the next full set of new emoji slated for 2022 (Unicode 14.0).
The pandemic did create some unexpected work-from-home 👨💻🏡 time that turned out to be perfect for researching and proposing new plantmoji. Cassidy Moody, the Garden’s unofficial plantmoji advocate and author of this post, teamed up with Emojination to identify plants that could make good candidates for emojification.
Venus Fly Trap
Perhaps the most promising of the 2020 plantmoji proposals was the Venus fly trap. After all, there are no other carnivorous plants currently represented in emoji form. And, it had the added benefit of personification because of the Venus fly trap’s human-like “mouth” 👄 leaves. In what we’re told was a hotly debated decision, the Emoji Subcommittee (ESC) ultimately turned down 👎 the proposal over concerns it wouldn’t see enough usage. There are some members of Emojination determined to see a comeback, so the book 📖 may not be entirely written yet.
There are only four emoji currently representing deciduous trees 🌳🍃🍂🍁. An arboreal tragedy, if you ask us. That’s one reason we created and submitted a proposal for an oak leaf emoji. Oaks have long held symbolic meaning in certain cultures, and it is an important timber tree. The artwork was chosen to accentuate the lobed margins many of us associate with certain species of oak leaves. Unfortunately, these arguments were not enough to sway the ESC.
Whether you use the American Green Thumb or the United Kingdom’s Green Fingers, the two expressions have long represented those with a particular knack for growing plants. This proposal sought to combine the existing thumbs up 👍 emoji with the seedling 🌱 emoji in what’s known as a Zero Width Joiner (ZWJ). These proposals are handled somewhat differently than entirely new emoji, but still held to a similar litmus test for acceptance. The ESC countered that the expression is not used enough globally and the idea of a green thumb can already be conveyed with 🟩 👍.
Looking to show a little love 💚 to the succulents, we submitted a proposal for one of the most well-known species, aloe vera. Its notable skin-soothing properties are just some of the many reasons people use this popular plant. Designer and former Garden intern Olivia Whitesides created the artwork 🧑🎨, showing the familiar form many of you may have potted and perched on your kitchen windowsill. This proposal slipped in just ahead of the most recent submission deadline, and is still awaiting feedback from the ESC. 🤞
The Garden’s first plantmoji submission, an orchid emoji, may need some more time ⏳in the emoji greenhouse before it’s ready for public display. The proposal, submitted in 2019, advanced all the way to provisional status this year. However, it narrowly missed the cut on the list of emoji recommended by the ESC for inclusion in Unicode 14.0. Unicode will make a final announcement at a later date, but if things stay as is, the orchid emoji will be on standby for consideration in Unicode 15.0. That means the earliest we could see it online is likely sometime in 2023 📆.
Where We Go from Here
It should be noted, the Garden is far from alone in the effort to see more plants as emoji. Emojination alone has helped with the creation of more than half a dozen plantmoji proposals (among them wood, potted plant, olive, blueberries, leafy green, garlic, onion, and broccoli). Several other plant proposals from Emojination contributors are also in various stages of completion. By staying engaged with others seeking to create more plantmoji, we can offer advice those creators might find useful.
One of the ways the Garden can play a role in the emoji process is by sharing our vast botanical knowledge and translating it into emoji representation. We have previously looked at which plant families are represented by emoji. Now we can focus on those that are not. A more complete picture of the plantmoji possibilities would serve as a helpful tool 🛠 for the ESC as they consider future plant proposals. We’re putting together a team of botanists, ethnobotanists, and horticulturists to explore those possibilities more in-depth.
As those efforts unfold, we’ll be sure to share our progress with you. And remember gardening, and emojis, both require patience. It will likely be years before we can enjoy the fruits 🍎🍇🍋 of this labor, but it will be worth it.
Senior Digital Media Specialist and Plantmoji Advocate