First flora data up

Sonchus oleraceus, one of the plants found within the Vacant Lands Broakland site by John Kamp and Nina Rubin

THANK YOU to everyone who came out for the first Vacant Lands Botanical Spelunking event in May. Who knew sleuthing for weeds could be so much fun. Over the course of the next month we will be identifying every plant spotted and uploading the info onto the Vacant Lands site. To see the first flush of flora data collected, click HERE.

Botanical spelunkers unite!

Participants from the first Prairieform Vacant Lands event, Botanical Spelunking 1, which took place in Berkeley and Oakland, California, on May 24, 2015.
Participants from the first Vacant Lands event, Botanical Spelunking 1

The first citizen-science event as part of PRAIRIEFORM‘s Vacant Lands project was held on May 24, in Broakland, CA. We didn’t know what we’d find when we set off to explore what was actually growing within vacant and neglected spaces within the study area. One possibility was: a whole lot of nothing. However, very shortly into the initial scouting and recording we quickly realized just how much plant diversity within the study area there truly is. It was actually pretty astonishing, verging on somehow moving.

We found plants we had never seen before growing in the most unlikely of spaces – cracks between asphalt and concrete, along busy, trafficky thoroughfares, and within narrow, completely unirrigated medians in the middle of multi-lane boulevards. Some were overtly beautiful, some oddly beautiful, some forbidding, others surprisingly detailed as long as you crouched down to get a closer look. All of them, though, we observed admirably eking out an existence within dismal growing conditions. There was something poetic and lovely about this, and I don’t think any of us expected to have that reaction. We felt like we were actually discovering something, something that you would think was so obvious that it wasn’t possible to be discovered in the first place, but it was. So the moniker Botanical Spelunkers, while crafted to be a bit cheeky and just somewhat apt, turned out to be particularly apt.

Over the next few weeks we will be uploading all of the plant data onto the Vacant Lands website. Stay tuned.

John Kamp

First Vacant Lands event

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

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.

On Orlando and weeds

Orlando, Virginia Woolf, weeds, vacant lots, turf grass, landscape design

There’s a line in Orlando that uses an allusion to weeds – or their absence – as a way of highlighting just how patrician the grounds of Orlando’s manor are: “Lying in bed of a morning on the softest pillows between the smoothest sheets and looking out of his oriel window upon turf which for three centuries had known neither dandelion nor dock weed, he thought that unless he could somehow make his escape, he should be smothered alive.” While not in any way a pivotal moment in the story’s narrative, the line says much – to a plant enthusiast – about weeds and the world humans have long lived in: weeds are not a 20th-century phenomenon; they’ve been with us for as long as gardens have been cultivated and lawns have been immaculately maintained. They grow with intent against what the gardener intently wishes would grow.

John Kamp