PRAIRIEFORM

Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

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Acacia melanoxylon, or black acacia, found growing between curb and concrete on Adeline Street in Berkeley, California, completely irrigation-free and mid-drought
An Acacia melanoxylon / black acacia seedling found growing in the crack between a curb and a concrete slab in Berkeley, CA

While hated by many for its invasiveness, it’s difficult not to marvel for just a moment at the multi-toned, variegated, and delicate beauty of an Acacia melanoxylon / black acacia seedling. You might marvel even more if you knew that this particular seedling shown above was found growing between the curb and a concrete slab of an unirrigated median on busy, traffic-soaked Adeline Street in south Berkeley (otherwise known as Quadrant B of the Vacant Lands Broakland Study Area). This is true tenacity.

How this seedling made its way to this particular spot is anyone’s guess, but an 1858 seed catalog might hold the key. It was brought from Australia to England in 1819 and was one of the first Australian plants offered for sale in California. William Walker was the first Californian to make it commercially available in his 1858 Golden Gate Nursery catalog. And now the tree can be found growing not only in California, but also in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and the continental US – a vast range in large part due to the plant’s knack for self-sowing with abandon and being able to grow and thrive within the toughest of conditions – from drought, to smog, to everything in between. Far from being a mere survivor, the tree is actually prized for its wood, both as durable lumber and as the raw material for something more decorative – say a chair, or, perhaps, a chaise.

Final tidbit of Acacia melanoxylon trivia: it goes by many more accessible, some might say sassier, names: Sally wattle, lightwood, hickory, mudgerabah, Tasmanian blackwood, black wattle, or blackwood acacia.

John Kamp

Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

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Festuca arundinacea was originally brought to the US as a pasture grass but has since spread throughout much of the US and is now considered a noxious weed in coastal California.
Festuca arundinacea / tall fescue

The perennial grass Festuca arundinacea / tall fescue was first spotted in the US in seed catalogs circa 1870. It was thought to be a viable option for a forage grass, and so it began to be used for grazing. So happy was the grass in its new environs that it started to spread throughout the US and now can be found in every state except Indiana and North Dakota. Its native habitat is damp grasslands, river banks, and coastal seashore locations in Europe and east into Siberia. It seems to have grown particularly fond of California, as it is now considered a noxious weed in the coastal portions of the state. The grass was found growing in the Vacant Lands Broakland Study Area within an unirrigated, eight-food-wide median on Adeline Street in South Berkeley.

John Kamp

Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

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An illustration of Hypochaeris radicata, a drought-tolerant, dandelion-like weed that people believe to be originally from Morocco

Hypochaeris radicata, aka cat’s ear or false dandelion, is a wildly prolific plant that has asserted its weedy dominance across much of the globe, now calling Europe, the Americas, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Africa home. Originally thought to be native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, the plant is now thought to be originally from Morocco and then to have made its way northward via human activities such as shipping, trade, and exploration. All parts of the plant are edible, particularly its roots. The larvae of several species of moth call the plant chow, and bees are attracted to its yellow flowers. The plant was discovered in the Vacant Lands Broakland Study Area growing within an unirrigated median on Adeline Street.

Drought-tolerant salad, anyone?

For more info, click here.

John Kamp

Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

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Avena fatua, an annual grass and weed found in the Prairieform Vacantlands Broakland study area, Berkeley, California

We have chosen wild oat (Avena fatua) as our first wanton weed of the Wantonly Weedy Wednesday series. The choice is in part due to the fact that Avena fatua is just such a ubiquitous part of the California landscape. Those golden hillsides you see throughout much of the state are actually painted that color by way of vast seas of Avena fatua, which is non-native annual that has, believe it or not, been present in California for over 200 years. The grass originally made its way to North America as a crop contaminant and can now be found growing in all 50 states. As it is an annual and an aggressive seeder and self-sower, it can quite successfully outcompete native perennial grass populations, particularly in areas that are heavily grazed or disturbed. However, given the fact that it has been found in California since the late 1700s, can we still consider it a non-native grass? At what point does it become native? After 300 years? 400? We have no answers to these questions but merely pose them as wantonly weedy food for thought. Talk amongst yourselves; discuss. For further reading and exploration, click HERE.

John Kamp

Wantonly Weedy Wednesdays

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Illustration of Plantago Lanceolata, as part of Prairieform's Vacant Lands Project and weekly feature, Wantonly Weedy Wednesdays

If you will, remember back to the days of yore when we had a weekly feature on here called Tragic Topiary Tuesdays, in which we would unveil photos of basically shockingly hideous – but sometimes cute and playful – topiary we had found primarily in and around Los Angeles but occasionally in Minneapolis, Mexico, and in some other random environs. We would give the photos clever tags, publish the posts, and allow people to marvel and gasp, and hopefully laugh a bit. The feature, while clever and cute and successful, had ultimately run its course after a couple of years, and so closed that tragicomic chapter in the life of this blog.

Well, we are happy to announce that we have a new weekly feature we are now launching, which, like Tragic Topiary Tuesdays, also contains a three-word, same-first-letter title, but which, unlike Tragic Topiary Tuesdays, directly pertains to a project we are currently working on, Vacant Lands. The feature we are dubbing Wantonly Weedy Wednesdays, and it will entail a wild, trivia-filled, can-you-believe-it?, get-out-of-here exposé on a weed we have discovered within one of the Vacant Lands study areas.

Enquiring minds the world over will no doubt ask, why the word “Wantonly” other than that it starts with a W and fulfills our particularly important requirement of three words starting with the same letter and making the same sound? Well, nos chers amis, we will have you know that wanton means a plethora of unexpectedly apt and relevant things. Observe:

“adjective
1.
done, shown, used, etc., maliciously or unjustifiably:
a wanton attack; wanton cruelty.
2.
deliberate and without motive or provocation; uncalled-for; headstrong; willful:
Why jeopardize your career in such a wanton way?
3.
without regard for what is right, just, humane, etc.; careless; reckless:
a wanton attacker of religious convictions.
4.
sexually lawless or unrestrained; loose; lascivious; lewd:
wanton behavior.
5.
extravagantly or excessively luxurious, as a person, manner of living, or style.
6.
luxuriant, as vegetation.
7.
Archaic.
sportive or frolicsome, as children or young animals.
having free play:
wanton breezes; a wanton brook.”

So, come along for the ride down our wanton botanical brook, learning oh-so many weedy and au courant thangs along the way. First official post starting next Wednesday.

John Kamp

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