Wild and Urban

Somewhat of a gap in entries, as I spent the last few days attending the ASLA annual meeting in Washington, DC. Several of the education sessions were of value in thinking about this project, but Peter Del Tredici’s talk on Wild Urban Plants really sticks out in my mind. I’ve found myself scrutinizing roadsides and train tracks much more closely already — and looking forward to my next visit to St. Louis . I hope to check out his recently-published Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast: a field guide soon. (see excerpt)

Del Tredici argues for the closer study of “weeds” and “invasive species”, proffering the term “cosmopolitan urban vegetation”. These species are actually extremely tolerant of urban conditions, requiring no maintenance–as opposed to the plants that we often install in urban designs, which typically require intensive maintenance. These “cosmopolitan” plants can tolerate heat, drought, poor drainage, soil compaction, road salt, and high pH soils, and are part of an “urban ecology”. As opposed to “natural ecology”, which assumes no–or very limited–human agency, “urban ecology” is directly related to human issues like socio-economics–after all, we are discussing issues of care and vacancy. And, whether or not we choose to acknowledge their value, these plants are performative, delivering ecological services–soaking up stormwater, providing shade, and providing food and habitat to wildlife.

This has me very excited to get to some preliminary identification of species and plant communities present on the Pruitt-Igoe site and surrounding area. Could this site be part of a north-south network of vacant lots reclaimed by nature, allowing species that normally require a large range to thrive in the city?

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