Have you seen this plant?

Mystery weed found within the Prairieform Vacant Lands study area in Berkeley, CA

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 kamp@prairieform.com.

Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

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

Weeds in eighth-century Japan

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

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

Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

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