Botanophobia (Fear of Plants)

Botanophobia is an intense fear of plants. People with botanophobia may believe that plants are harmful or dangerous and so avoid them. Severe cases can cause symptoms of anxiety and affect daily life. Treatments include exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis and anti-anxiety medications.


What is botanophobia?

Botanophobia is an intense fear of plants. The condition is called a specific phobia (fear). Phobia is a type of anxiety disorder.

People with botanophobia might believe that plants can harm people. Or they might worry that plants will evolve and overtake humans. They may think plants are toxic or infested with harmful germs. Or they may even falsely believe that plants will suck up all the oxygen.

People with botanophobia often go to great lengths to avoid plants, such as:

  • Deciding where to live based on plant life.
  • Refusing to go outdoors.
  • Skipping educational, professional or personal activities that involve plants.

Because plants are almost everywhere, botanophobia can cause significant stress and even physical symptoms. A person with botanophobia may understand that the fear is extreme, but can’t control it.


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How common is it?

It’s hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like a fear of plants. Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives, though.

Are there different types of botanophobia?

Botanophobia can involve fear of a specific type of plant or all plant life. The condition is also related to other specific phobias, including:

  • Anthophobia, a fear of flowers.
  • Dendrophobia, a fear of trees.
  • Germophobia, a fear of germs, which may live on plants.
  • Entomophobia, a fear of insects, which are often found on plants.
  • Nosophobia, a fear of illness, which a person with botanophobia might think can happen with plant exposure.


Symptoms and Causes

What causes a fear of plants?

Healthcare providers aren’t sure what causes specific phobias, such as botanophobia. But most mental health professionals believe it’s often caused by some combination of:

  • Genetics: Some people have a family history of anxiety and specific fears.
  • Superstitions and cultural meanings: Some cultures pass down stories and beliefs that plants are associated with witches, fairies, demons and other mystical beings.
  • Traumatic experiences associated with plant life: This may include having a bad case of poison ivy, seeing flowers at a funeral or watching a horror movie involving a killer plant.

What are the symptoms of plant phobia?

A person with botanophobia may panic or experience some symptoms of anxiety when they think about or encounter a plant, such as:

Botanophobia also might lead to certain behaviors, like:

  • Avoidance of plants.
  • Refusal to go outside or participate in certain activities, such as walks in nature.
  • Banning fruits and vegetables from their diet.


Diagnosis and Tests

How is botanophobia diagnosed?

There aren’t any tests to diagnose fear of plants. Your healthcare provider can diagnose the condition based on discussions with you about:

  • Your symptoms.
  • How long they’ve been happening.
  • Whether they’re interfering in your life.

Your healthcare provider can diagnose botanophobia if you have an intense fear of plants that:

  • Causes extreme anxiety as soon as you think about or encounter a plant.
  • Leads to significant stress or affects your daily life.
  • Has been happening for at least six months.
  • Is out of proportion with the actual danger.
  • Makes you avoid plants or specific situations.
  • Produces physical symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks.

Management and Treatment

How do I get rid of botanophobia?

Some people with mild botanophobia may not need treatment. But if the fear causes physical symptoms or interferes with daily life, talk to your healthcare provider.

Possible treatments include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is structured psychotherapy that can help you understand and control thoughts and emotions. This talk therapy can help you unlearn negative thoughts that happen when you think about or encounter plant life. One type of CBT is dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT). With DBT, your therapist asks you to think about a plant and then half-smile. Over time, this may change your emotions associated with plants.
  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy, sometimes called desensitization, helps you confront your fears gradually. You’re exposed to the idea of plants over time in a controlled environment. Exposure therapy starts with something less scary, like a picture of a plant. Eventually, you’re asked to imagine plants, then be around plants, then touch plants. Through increasing exposure, you learn to manage botanophobia.
  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy can put you in a trance-like but focused state. Under hypnosis, you’re more open to suggestion and change. Your hypnotist may be able to convince you that you’re are less afraid of plants.
  • Medications: A variety of medications can temporarily lessen anxiety and its physical symptoms.


How can I reduce my risk of botanophobia?

Because mental health professionals don’t fully understand what causes botanophobia, there’s no proven way to prevent it.

Many people with a specific fear have multiple phobias, plus other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to manage any symptoms of the first anxiety disorder before you develop additional fears.

Outlook / Prognosis

Can botanophobia be cured?

Many children and adolescents get over botanophobia as they grow up, but the fear may persist into adulthood.

There isn’t a cure for a specific fear such as botanophobia. But exposure therapy, often combined with other treatments, helps more than 90% of people who practice it regularly.

Living With

How can I best learn to cope with a fear of plants?

Many people can manage botanophobia and other specific fears. Consider working with a mental health professional and practicing techniques to manage anxiety, such as:

  • Breathing exercises.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Meditation.
  • Yoga.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Botanophobia is an intense fear of plants. It’s a type of anxiety disorder, and severe cases can cause symptoms and affect daily life. If you have botanophobia or any other specific fear, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/25/2022.

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