PRAIRIEFORM

Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

First Vacant Lands event

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Flyer for first citizen-science event as part of the Prairieform Vacant Lands Project, a project exploring weeds and  what grows in vacant lots and neglected spaces.

The first event for the Vacant Lands project is set for May 24 in Berkeley, CA. We will be taking a proverbial microscope up to all of the plants growing within neglected and overlooked spaces within the Broakland (comprises parts of Berkeley and Oakland) Study Area. As this is a citizen-science-based event, all are welcome and encouraged to attend. For more information, and to RSVP, you may click HERE.

Vacant lands

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vacant Lands study area in Stockholm, Sweden
Vacant Lands study area in Stockholm, SE

We have just launched our newest landscape project, Vacant Lands, and we are, of course, super excited. Vacant Lands is a citizen-science-based project in which we will be taking a microscope up to all of the plants growing within vacant lots, cracks, and neglected spaces of two study areas, one in Berkeley/Oakland (aka Broakland), CA, and one in Stockholm, SE. The project posits that particular ecologies exist within cities that did not exist 100 years ago; they are the result of years of human intervention that have woven through and plowed over preexisting natural systems. Thus we have streets and sidewalks, and reflected heat and building-altered wind patterns; we have changing urban wildlife populations and imported plant species; and, of course, we have climate change. The thing is, we’ve never really bothered to look at what these new ecologies actually look like and what they are made of. To these ends, we’ll be holding a series of open-to-all exploratory missions within both study areas where we will be going out and documenting all things botanical and unintentional. Our first exploratory mission will be held within the Broakland Study Area in March. Please visit the Vacant Lands website for updated info and details.

Vacant Lands 1

Tags: , , , , , ,

prairieform, comic, vacant lands, johnnycakes, weeds, native plants, invasive plants, California, Bay Area, drought

So, some of you may know that our work is turning towards weeds, and specifically towards vacant lots. The landscapes we do take so much time – like years – to become actual, in-the-ground living creations. In order to set the ball in motion we are embarking on the the discourse-generation phase of the project, including a new comic called Vacant Lands. It will appear in installments. It represents us circa 2014, both curious about and critical of the conventional processes of landscape creation in the US. Anyhoo, here is the first. It contains the errant cuss word, just a forewarning.

Diversity does not mean ‘native only’

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

nepeta x faasenii 'walker's low', prairieform, joppa avenue landscape, pollinators, diversity, native plants, landscapes, landscape design
Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’ with a mix of other cultivars and prairie natives in the Joppa Avenue Landscape

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that pollinators are drawn to areas with a diverse variety of flowering plants they enjoy dining on. The National Academy of Sciences recently released a report on the matter, and the findings further underscore the importance of plant diversity for encouraging pollinator subsistence and survival. However, some have seen fit to take this evidence and create a causal relationship that the research conclusions do not: plant only native plants, as if ‘diversity’ and ‘native plants’ were one and of the same. They are not. Rather, diversity, simply implies a large array of plant species that, in this case, are concentrated in one area that pollinators like. Plant 100 plants endemic to your region but then add one cultivar that pollinators also love, and just by sheer numbers you have created more plant diversity in your landscape than one with just those 100 native plants alone.

We take Nepeta x faasenii ‘Walker’s Low’ as a case in point. In the Joppa Avenue Landscape (which has become a bit of a testing grounds for the plants we choose to use or not use in other landscapes we do) we have planted over 15 Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ interspersed with other cultivars, and plants of the Minnesota prairie. Since the Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ began blooming over two weeks ago (while none of the plants of the Minnesota prairie we have planted have yet), we have observed in considerable numbers the following flocking to the plants: over five kinds of soliary bee, various varieties of hoverfly, honeybees, multiple varieties of bumble bee, hummingbird moths, hummingbirds, ants, and pollinating wasps. And no, we didn’t somehow trick them into coming to the plants; they came of their own accord. The plants have served both as an early source of color and a wonderful stand-in for pollinators before the huge flush of native plants of the prairie make their big emphemeral show in July.

One could make the argument that cultivars and exotics end up “crowding out” native species and thus should be avoided. We do buy this argument in the case of a habitat restoration project; in a garden or landscape settting, however, we do not. Gardens and landscapes are by their very nature intentional spaces and the human hand in their creation is real and always evident (even however slight at times). As such they are enhanced or magnified versions of nature, containing groupings and mixings of plants designed to please the eye and that would not otherwise occur in a purely natural setting left to its own devices. Cultivars and exotics are not breaking any proverbial “rules” by their presence in the landscape. Additionally, It is a misperception that most cultivars and exotics are invasive and/or weedy. University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Horticulture Jeff Gillman conceded this point recently in a column on native plants in the StarTribune. “There are many exotics, such as Japanese maples and most crops, that are well-behaved and stay right where they’re placed,” said Gillman. Added to that list would also be Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low.’ It won’t spontaneously take over your landscape with seedlings sprouting up everywhere but will simply grow in the place where you have planted it. And there are many more like this that are well-behaved and attract endless numbers of pollinators when many native plants of the prairie aren’t in bloom.

At the end of the day we are really advocating for people to graduate from the notion that landscapes can only be one of two things: all cultivars and exotics, or all native. As if there was nothing in between. There is, and the research on plant diversity in the landscape supports such hybrid, mixed landscapes. Finding the right mix depends on the particular landscape, the tastes of its creator, and the type of wildlife you seek to attract.

So, plant and landscape enthusiasts the world over, go forth, diversify, mix, and be merry.

© 2009 PRAIRIEFORM. All Rights Reserved.

This blog is powered by Wordpress and Magatheme by Bryan Helmig.