An excerpt from the Collection of Ten-Thousand Leaves, an the oldest collection of Japanese poetry, and which contains a poem that talks about weeds
Excerpt from Collection of Ten-Thousand Leaves, courtesy of Alive in Tokyo

Collection of Ten-Thousand Leaves is the oldest known anthology of Japanese poetry in existence. It was compiled in the middle of the eighth century and contains some unexpectedly relevant glimpses into the lives of ordinary and not-so-ordinary Japanese people, who are living and going about their lives in so much of the same ways that we do now. Given our recent work with Vacant Lands, we could not help but notice and be drawn to one poem in particular, a dialogue poem that makes clear mention of weeds and their real existence in the writer’s life. Beyond the mention of weeds, it is a dear and lovely poem to boot.

It reads as follows:

Had I foreknown my sweet lord’s coming,
My garden, now so rank with wild weeds,
I had strewn it with pearls!

What use to me a house strewn with pearls?
The cottage hidden in wild weeds
Is enough, if I am with you.

From Keene, Donald ed. Anthology of Japanese Literature. New York: Grove Press, 1955.

John Kamp

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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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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

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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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Imagine if human pregnancy also involved and required custom-building a house for the newborn babies – and not with the help of a contractor or designer, but on your own, with your own hands and with your own gathered materials. This is in essence what a hummingbird does in anticipation of the arrival of its young; every mother hummingbird is her own architect. Check out the video and marvel for yourself, as it is something to marvel over. Happy viewing.

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