A photo of Vacant Lands 1 in San Francisco’s Presidio
Here are the photos from the first Vacant Lands installation, installed in San Francisco’s Presidio as part of the Architecture as Pedestal Exhibition. Thank you to everyone who came by, asked questions, looked, explored, observed. We came up with the idea for the project in 2014, so it’s been a long road from conception to installation, and thus the support and interest were greatly appreciated. Naturally we already have our eyes and mind on the next installation, what it will look like, where it will be, and how you will be able to explore it. Stay tuned. For more info, you may click HERE.
If so, and if you have any ideas as to its proper identity, growth habits, needs, hankerings, please tweet to @prairieform or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.