PRAIRIEFORM

Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Hope

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dwarf fritillary butterfly caterpillars on passion vine in Oakland, California
Dwarf fritillary butterfly caterpillars on passion vine

In 21st-century California, it is increasingly a luxury of kingly proportions to have a yard of one’s own, especially within one of the state’s major metropolitan areas. As such, container gardening is the only option for many of us, a type of gardening that presents its own set of challenges, not the least of which being watering, as even the most drought-tolerant of plants will require much more watering in a container than they would in the ground. Maintenance reservations aside, I bit the bullet some months ago and started transforming the fire escape/balcony we have here in Oakland into a pollinator garden that is ideally groovy to look at and hang out in as well. To these ends, I planted, among other ‘tings, three kinds of passion vine back in April, hoping to attract the dwarf fritillary butterfly, whose food of choice is the passion vine. Well, as of a month ago, I discovered tiny orange eggs on the vines, and then two weeks ago, these eggs hatched into the tiniest of caterpillars. Since then, the caterpillar children have eaten to their hearts’ content and grown exponentially bigger by the day.

It would be a cliche to say that these are uncertain times we are living in, but, well, the cliche rings true. And in such uncertain times, inviting wildlife intro your landscape in whatever way possible can be a tonic to the lunancy about, serving as a small beacon of hope. What’s not to marvel over that a tiny butterfly would fly around and somehow locate a little patch of passion vine in the middle of dense, urbanized Oakland and decide to make that small patch of green home for its butterfly kids? It is marvel-worthy indeed.

John Kamp

We’ve moved!

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Prairieform Landscape and Urban Design has moved to Oakland, California. Here is a photo of our new neighborhood.

We have moved to Oakland! Above is a view from the new office. It inspires daydreaming and calls forth nothing but possibilities.

John Kamp

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

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