Grandma C's BlogGMAS Blog

Are You an Orchid or a Dandelion?

Have you observed that some children raised under terrible conditions become responsible, accomplished members of society?

Have you also observed that other children, like Alex Murdaugh, who grew up enjoying privileged conditions fail to flourish? Maybe even end up in prison? Or become unemployable?

Child development specialists Bruce J. Ellis and W. Thomas Boyce have engaged in considerable research on the complex topic of ”biological sensitivity to context.”


In layperson’s terms, their theory explains how some children flourish even with severe adversity, while other children fail despite multiple advantages.

Predisposition Makes Us Dandelions or Orchids

The orchid versus dandelion theory of how children develop attempts to explain why some of us who grew up in dysfunctional situations become fully functioning, respectable members of society.

We’re considered dandelions because, like our namesake plant, we’re hardy and can grow even in hostile terrain. And as gardeners know, dandelions are hard to eradicate.

Rocky soil (Photo by Joshua Tsu on Unsplash)

In contrast, orchid people require certain conditions to thrive, flourish, and bloom. For instance, the orchid is generally light hungry, but the plant doesn’t like late-afternoon sunlight.

Orchid blooming (Photo by White.Rainforest on Unsplash)

Orchids need to be in a high-humidity environment but, at the same time, need airflow around their roots. Although they require heavy watering, they also need regular periods of drying. Clearly, orchids are high-maintenance plants, which is why I never tried to grow an orchid.


Orchid individuals are high maintenance. They may be easily irritated, sensitive to criticism, and slow to recover from disappointments. Orchid people may have and show exaggerated reactions to events that dandelion people absorb and move on from.

Genetics Dictates the Kind of Plant

Whether you are a dandelion or an orchid person may be predetermined by your genetic predisposition. Most parents would confirm this theory. Many say that their child’s predisposition was noticeable almost from birth.

If dandelion people bounce back from adversity and disappointments, it’s because they have a built-in mental state that can accommodate the rough-and-tumble events of life none of us escape.

In contrast, sensitive orchid people are vulnerable to external forces, such as pressure on teenagers to experiment with drugs. Or overdose on Benadryl, the latest TikTok-inspired craze.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

At eighty, I transplanted myself to France. Transplants are challenging at any age, and mine is no exception. After being here twenty months, I’m seeing my first yellow flower petals appear.

Where I bloom in France

I’ve made a few friends, and I’ve managed to find tennis playmates. Thanks to my son and his wife, I’ve also settled into my small but comfy French home. Like the dandelion that I am, I’ll bloom where I’m planted.

(Cover photo by Walter Sturn on Unsplash)