Is picking flowers a sin?

Salvete, omnes!

Before I go any further, and so as not to be accused of not being serious, of trolling, or of other thans ofwhich I have previously been accused of here when posting, let me say that my question is indeed a serious and sincere one.

Is it sinful to pick flowers, say, in a field for fun and/or decoration as in order to place them in the hair or in a lei as many Hawaiians do?

I understand that plants and animals are said to have “material” souls that are not, like ours, immortal. However, if plants have some kind of soul, can they not also feel sensation? If they can feel sensation, can they not also suffer, say, when picked?

I mean, these days, anyway, we hear all the time how plants almost certainly respond to playing of music, depending on kind and in both negative and positive ways. We also hear, at least from certain (usually “Christian Science”) circles that, as it is said “even a tomato screams when it is sliced”. (This last instance is, of course, to be believed with caution, though I am no scientist and genuinely wonder how much truth there is in this statement.) Still, what if, when we pick a plant, especially from its root, and as it wilts and dies, it feels a pain in this death? Is this even possible?

I mean, intuitively, since plants have no brain as we do, we might state that they do not feel as we do, if at all. However, at a deeper, philosophical level, is a “brain” in our understanding of the term, truly necessary to render sensation and even thought? After all, we hear speculation that there may be other lifeforms that think/feel outside of this planet but that may not have the same physical structure that we do. Is our precise physical makeup truly the only one that can experience thought/feeling/sensation?

Furthermore, when we kill an animal, say, for food, we can be pretty sure that animal, once dead, no longer feels pain and we often try to ensure that that animal suffers only briefly. However, plants, when they are said to “die” seem often to suffer a far longer period of “death”. If they experience pain, then, we might argue that their pain is far more prolonged than is that of animals.

I mean, I get that we have to “kill” plants in order to survive. I think this is a different issue as it derives from necessity. However, the picking of flowers such as I describe does not derive from necessity but derives its impetus from our desire for the pleasure of beauty.

So, once again, and with all the above in mind, is it wrong and even sinfl to pick flowers for pleasure/decoration? Is there any Church teaching on this or anything related to the subject which might be helpful to us here?

Picking flowers is not a sin. Although of course, wanton destruction for the sake of destruction would be foolishness or rudeness to the creator.
A flower has no self to experience pain.


Under the circumstances you mention in the beginning of your post, NO. It wouldn’t be a 'sin" to pick a flower to wear in your hair or to use as decoration.
Picking a flower(s) while out in nature on a hike or some similar activity wouldn’t be a sin. However, if you were to pick every single one you could get your hands on for your own pleasure, then that would just be greedy and selfish.
Similarly, if you were to walk past someones home and saw a wealth of flowers growing in their garden and you picked them without their consent, then that’s essentially theft, and theft is a sin. Whoever owns and cultivates said garden did not give you permission to pick their flowers. Why not simply ask the gardener if you could have a blossom ? Gardeners, by and large are a friendly lot and usually willing to share a bloom or two if approached respectfully.

As far as "screaming sliced tomatoes’ is concerned, that’s just ridiculous, as is the concept of plants feeling pain when cut or uprooted. In order for an organism to “feel pain” it needs to have a nervous system. Plants do not have a nervous system and hence do not have the capability to feel pain as we know it. Nor do plants have “hearts”. They have osmotic circulatory systems which transport water and nutrients.

Common sense is the key here. Cultivating and nourishing plants for food is not sinful, nor is doing the same with flowers for decorative purposes. If picking flowers was considered a sin our churches would be devoid of them at all times.

OTOH, to deliberately pick flowers with malicious intent ( i.e. to get even with someone for spite) and then let them go to waste would be sinful, but obviously not to the same degree as say, murder

Just as growing crops for food is not sinful, growing flowers for the express purpose of picking them for decoration is not sinful. If it were I’d be facing eternity in hell as I am a landscaper and also grow cut flowers for sale as a business.

This is a true story: A woman picked up some roses from a garden. The owner caught her in the act and the woman said: “I mean to put them in front of the statue of Our Lady.” If that is not a sin, I do not know what it is.

IMHO, picking flowers from a field is perfectly fine. However, if you are in a state park or a private place and there are signs all over the place which say: DO NOT PICK THE FLOWERS, then I would guess that you would be guilty of the sin of theft if you picked the flowers at that location.

I don’t think you’ve been really accused of being a troll.
I think the type of questions tend to seem …um…convoluted. :rolleyes:
But that’s just my opinion.
No. Not a sin.
Why would it be? You’ve given no proof that this in anyway separates one from the Lord.

As an attorney I enjoy thinking about hypotheticals, but it’s a bit much to propose that the Creator of the universe would consider picking a flower as sinful (separating the transgressor from Him).

Good point. I was tempted to pick some cactus plants when I was outside Yellowstone National Park but then I remembered it might be against the law.

Picking flowers out in the wild is not a sin of any sort. It might be a venial sin to pick flowers out of a neighbors garden or some business landscaping or a nature preserve, as those are someone’s private property/possession. But in your own yard or out in the wild is fair game :smiley:

That sin would be ‘theft’, not ‘picking flowers’. :wink:


No. that is not what a material soul is. A “material soul” is the principle that distinguishes “alive” from “dead”.

We have a *spiritual *soul. It is not merely that our soul is eternal that distinguishes it from a material soul.

Our spiritual soul has intellect and will. Things with material souls have neither.

Summa Theologica (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Question 64, Article I:

Article 1. Whether it is unlawful to kill any living thing?

Objection 1. It would seem unlawful to kill any living thing. For the Apostle says (Romans 13:2): “They that resist the ordinance of God purchase to themselves damnation Vulgate: ‘He that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, purchase themselves damnation.’].” Now Divine providence has ordained that all living things should be preserved, according to Psalm 146:8-9, “Who maketh grass to grow on the mountains . . . Who giveth to beasts their food.” Therefore it seems unlawful to take the life of any living thing.
Objection 2. Further, murder is a sin because it deprives a man of life. Now life is common to all animals and plants. Hence for the same reason it is apparently a sin to slay dumb animals and plants.
Objection 3. Further, in the Divine law a special punishment is not appointed save for a sin. Now a special punishment had to be inflicted, according to the Divine law, on one who killed another man’s ox or sheep (Exodus 22:1). Therefore the slaying of dumb animals is a sin.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 20): “When we hear it said, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ we do not take it as referring to trees, for they have no sense, nor to irrational animals, because they have no fellowship with us. Hence it follows that the words, ‘Thou shalt not kill’ refer to the killing of a man.”
I answer that, There is no sin in using a thing for the purpose for which it is. Now the order of things is such that the imperfect are for the perfect, even as in the process of generation nature proceeds from imperfection to perfection. Hence it is that just as in the generation of a man there is first a living thing, then an animal, and lastly a man, so too things, like the plants, which merely have life, are all alike for animals, and all animals are for man. Wherefore it is not unlawful if man use plants for the good of animals, and animals for the good of man, as the Philosopher states (Polit. i, 3).
Now the most necessary use would seem to consist in the fact that animals use plants, and men use animals, for food, and this cannot be done unless these be deprived of life: wherefore it is lawful both to take life from plants for the use of animals, and from animals for the use of men. On fact this is in keeping with the commandment of God Himself: for it is written (Genesis 1:29-30): “Behold I have given you every herb . . . and all trees . . . to be your meat, and to all beasts of the earth”: and again (Genesis 9:3): “Everything that moveth and liveth shall be meat to you.”
Reply to Objection 1. According to the Divine ordinance the life of animals and plants is preserved not for themselves but for man. Hence, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 20), “by a most just ordinance of the Creator, both their life and their death are subject to our use.”
Reply to Objection 2. Dumb animals and plants are devoid of the life of reason whereby to set themselves in motion; they are moved, as it were by another, by a kind of natural impulse, a sign of which is that they are naturally enslaved and accommodated to the uses of others.
Reply to Objection 3. He that kills another’s ox, sins, not through killing the ox, but through injuring another man in his property. Wherefore this is not a species of the sin of murder but of the sin of theft or robbery.

If what you said about plants is true,vegans and vegetarians are in trouble.
A cyber flower for you.

Even presuming that a plant has a soul of some kind, it still isn’t a sin to pick flowers. Removing a flower doesn’t kill a plant, and a plant’s flowers are designed to be attractive to animals. Most flowering plants actually depend on attracting animals with flowers or fruit in order to reproduce. And of course we know from Scripture that plant were designed by God to be a source of sustenance.

Agreed. Some plants won’t continue t thrive if not “dead-headed”.

So, if the answer is yes, then you are willing to condemn Hawaiians? Or how about the Mass crime I was guilty of last Saturday when I mowed the lawn?

These questions are rarely theologically helpful.

You mention that nerves are needed to feel pain, but is it not at least conceivable that pain may be felt in other ways besides only the nerve structure? So, then, if this is a possibility, however real or remote, how does this bear on the question of picking flowers for purposes of beauty/pleasure/etc.?

You mention that the Bible tells us that God made plants for our consumption. However, then, are we not using plants for the true purpose when we simply admire them for their beauty rather than consuming them? When we simply admire them/pick them for their beauty alone, i.e., without consuming them, are we going against God’s true purpose for them?

Indeed, there have been cultures throughout history that have even consumed flowers for both food and drink.

Although picking flowers is not a sin, it would be if you took them from someone else’s yard. I also hate to kill the little buggies that fly around. They love to be around flowers.

A soul is simply a technical term for “form” when it applies to a living being. It’s not a separate, immaterial thing in and of itself. Just because a living thing is said to have a soul doesn not elevate it close to a rational being. What’s more important, perhaps, is whether a thing has a mind.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit