Closeup view of dozens of tiny drops of water in a spider's web, all reflecting the green leaves and brown stems of the plant in which the web lies.
Reflections In Raindrops This was taken just after a rainstorm, of a spider's web in my backyard in Middleboro, MA. © Linda Howes/TNC Photo Contest 2021

How to Help

Things We Love About Nature—That Aren’t Animals

Animals get lots of love, but there’s so much more to nature than our favorite furry, finned or feathered friends.

It probably comes as no surprise that here at The Nature Conservancy we love nature. And since you’re here, you probably do, too. Most of us have a favorite animal (anyone else love elephants?) or a treasured memory involving animals (perhaps fishing in a local stream or seeing a majestic fox near your home).

And while we might identify more with animals, nature is so much vaster than elephants and blue whales.

Here are some of our favorite things about nature that aren’t animals:

1. Plants

The variety in the plant kingdom is simply astounding. We see this from giant sequoias to tiny duckweed, from ephemeral bluebells to carnivorous Venus flytraps, and even from the many plants we grow for food.

Many of us love plants so much we’ve cultivated miniature jungles inside our homes—plants purify our air, bring brightness and joy, and even reduce stress. They come in every color, size, and shape imaginable and thrive in the most extreme environments (including your kitchen windowsill).

Some smell like death while others smell like (you guessed it) roses. Some bloom underwater, or only at night, or once a decade. Perhaps best of all, every year scientists catalogue new plants!

Photos: Plants We Love

This is just the tip of the iceberg plant.

View looking up toward the tops of a tall kelp forest.
Closeup view of a sundew with bright red bristles extending from rounded heads and droplets of dew at their ends.
View looking up toward the tops of giant redwood trees, with sun streaming in from the top.
Closeup view of a blue cactus with bright orange spines.

2. Changing Seasons

Part of the beauty of nature is that it’s always changing! The transformation from winter to spring to summer to autumn is celebrated among human cultures the world over.

Even those of us who live closer to the equator can pick up on the subtle cues that the seasons are shifting. Regardless of your favorite season, there’s something to love about each.

Photos: Your Favorite Season

Enjoy the year-round beauty of our ever-changing world.

Landscape view of a deep field of purple and white wildflowers that extends in a valley leading to rocky mountains in the distance.
 Closeup of frozen leaves in winter, with red, yellow, and green leaves and an outline of frost on each leaf.
 Landscape view looking across a wide field of yellow sunflowers with a dramatic sky of gray clouds before a storm.
 Micro closeup of a crystalline snowflake on a piece of royal blue fabric.
 View of vibrant red and yellow leaves on a curving tree branch.
 Closeup of the flowers of a peach blossom against a blue sky.
Landscape view of a city skyline in the distance, a large body of water to the left, and open, green city parks in the foreground.
 Closeup view of a branch of a camel thorn bush with bright yellow round blossoms.
 Landscape view of a beach and coastline with dramatic gray storm clouds overhead and sheets of rain pouring down over the ocean in the distance.
 Landscape view of a field of orange California poppies growing along a hillside, with a couple of trees in the background and the sun setting in the distance.

3. Geologic Formations

It should come as no surprise that Planet Earth has some truly incredible earth formations! Shaped by wind, water, glacial movements and tectonic plates, our planet creates a stunning array of terrain.

You’ve heard about—and maybe even visited—the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but what about the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming? Or Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland? Or Vinicunca, the rainbow mountain, in Peru? Or the Marble Caves in Chile? Natural wonders, big and small, are everywhere.

Photos: Nature Rocks!

We don't take nature for granite.

View from a high vantage point looking out at the green sea and a large rock formation composed of layers and layers of stacked rock.
 Nighttime view of a volcano erupting, with lava spewing up and flowing down the sides of the volcano and three silhouetted figures standing watching the eruption.
Landscape view of a mountain range with rows of pointed rock formations 'striped' with colors of purple, pink, and beige.
 Ground-level view of orange 'striped' desert rock walls with a pool of water in the center that reflects the standing orange rock formation in the distance.
Water cascades down many levels of rock in a large waterfall in a forest.
 Landscape view of desert sand dunes with what appears to be a sand waterfall cascading down the center of the dunes; the 'water' is actually salt.
View looking up at vibrant red rock formations forming a canopy overhead, with the starry nighttime sky visible between the rocks.
View of mountain peaks that appear to be striped with different colors of red, yellow, purple, green, and orange.
View from atop a very tall waterfall looking down toward the ground.
A giant rock formation looks like a breaking ocean wave.

4. Sights, Sounds and Smells

Take in nature through your senses! What do you see, hear, smell, feel, even taste when enjoying nature? You might love the satisfying crunch of a fallen leaf beneath your foot. Or recognize the scent of approaching rain after a dry spell.

You might marvel at the colors in a sunrise or sunset or, if you’re lucky, Aurora Borealis. Or sit quietly and listen to raindrops tapping against leaves or a creek sloshing over rocks—sounds you don’t normally hear in your day-to-day life. Maybe you’ll wake early to welcome the warmth of the sunrise after a chilly night in a tent or study the silent sparkle of new snow blanketing a field. Nature fills our senses.

Photos: Capturing the Senses

"Once you appreciate one of your blessings, one of your senses, your sense of hearing, then you begin to respect the sense of seeing and touching and tasting, you learn to respect all the senses." Maya Angelou

View looking across a snow-covered landscape with animal tracks leading toward a forest in the far distance.
Closeup view of a pink camellia flower in bloom, with dewdrops covering its petals.
 A hand holds an orange-brown leaf up against the blue sky.
Bubbles and raindrops appear on the surface of a pink-colored body of water.
Listen (2:15) Gentle waves from underneath the surface of the water treat the ears in this virtual dive into the kelp forests of California. While you're listening, peek at the amazing diversity of this environment!

5. Textures, Shapes and Patterns

Let the outdoors be your art museum! Pleasing textures and patterns catch our eye and make us feel an intimate connection to our planet. Whether you believe in a higher power or consent to the chaos of the universe, we all powerfully feel the beauty of Earth. Many of us find ways to emulate this natural beauty through art.

As our photo contest fans know, photographing nature allows us to reflect on how we experience nature, what emotions we feel, and why we’re so drawn to certain patterns, colors and shapes in our natural world.

These feelings remind us that we’re not separate from nature—in fact, we’re an essential part.

Photos: Nature's Art

"If you truly love nature, you'll find beauty everywhere." Vincent Van Gogh

Aerial view looking down at a lake that has many layers of colors, from various shades of pink to greens and blues.
Closeup view of a delicate flower with many 'arms' branching off its main steam; tiny blue and purple flowers are at the end of each arm.
Aerial view looking down on a beach with lines of water that have formed what look like trees made of sand.
Ground-level view across a mosaic-like salt flat in Death Valley, with a dramatic sky overhead highlighted by vibrant pink clouds.
Closeup view of brain coral with multiple irregularly shaped spheres with yellow edges and blue interiors.
Black-and-white aerial view of 'fingers' of a glacial river flowing over lava.
A single tree stands against an abstract background of gold and black hues of sand dunes.
Closeup view of the delicate orange spirals of an underwater Christmas tree worm.
 Air bubbles trapped in a frozen lake look like they're floating.
Closeup view of the peeling bark of a tree in multiple shades of brown.

6. Persistence

Don’t underestimate the persistence and resilience of nature! Just look at what one seed can do in a place disturbed by a strong storm or human activity.

When we give Mother Nature a chance to recover—or actively help restore her—we can see just how quickly she can go back to her old ways.

The world’s Indigenous Peoples have long stewarded nature through actions that activate its resilience. One is prescribed fire, which restores landscapes that depended on small, frequent fires. Another is regenerative agriculture, which brings life back to the soil and benefits waterways all the way back to oceans.

There are many other ways we can restore nature: We can also plant trees where they’re needed. We can help coral reefs reproduce and grow into strong reefs. And we can help remove invasive species that throw off native ecosystems and biodiversity.

Photos: Persistence, Resilience, Hope

Nature never gives up, and we must not, either.

A single, thin stem of a young mangrove sprouts from a sandy coastal area.
 A plant with bright orange flowers grows amidst severely dry, cracked earth.
 A lone willow tree grows in the middle of a lake; snow-capped mountains are in the distance.
Aerial view of a forest containing dead tree trunks interspersed with newly growing trees.
A single tree grows surrounded by concrete under an overpass in a city.
A single plant with red and pink flowers grows amidst a dry landscape on top of hills overlooking the ocean in the distance.
A black-and-white photo of a lone mangrove tree growing on a coast; ocean water surrounds its roots, and its reflection appears in the wet sand.
A rainbow appears within a large rainstorm over a wide plain in Africa.
 Tiny grasses poke out of the soil in a longleaf pine forest after a controlled burn.
A lone tree grows amidst rock on a high cliff.