Long-term learning from a landscape

What is so fascinating about this documentary on Southern California’s Descanso Gardens is that it really traces the evolution of our understanding as a culture of nature, ecology, and gardening. And this evolution can be seen through what the Gardens have prioritized and modified over the years – such as moving water-loving camelias (the early cornerstone of the Gardens) away from the live oaks (which hate summer water), and an increasing focus on water conservation and habitat landscaping. The documentary even weaves in the ugly history of Japanese internment, its connection to the Gardens, and how that story, once buried, is now told very openly.

Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

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

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.

Vacant Lands 1

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.