These don’t count.
I’m not alone. Others do this too, and every few months we report our findings.
|Dreary day, dreary town.|
|Another Laramie alley.|
|Common Wyoming ruderals – cheatgrass, dandelions and kochia (left to right).|
Our street plants are tough, but I didn’t expect to find any live ones in February. How can small herbaceous plants grow when temperatures stay below freezing for days at a time? Even though I was skeptical, the botanical detective in me rose to the challenge. Maybe the urban environment includes warmer microsites where plants can grow – steam pipes, kitchen vents, south-facing protected walls. I went searching.
I found remains of the dead. Some made interesting compositions ... or so it seemed at the time. I guess was desperate for photos:
Then a flash of green stopped me in my tracks:
See it? … it's in the small white patch where the building meets the sidewalk.
Amazing! A plant was growing in debris and snow at the base of a north-facing wall. And of course it was … (can you guess?)
... a dandelion. A block away I found another:
... and then another:
|Dandelion habitat is where the low wall and sidewalk meet.|
Dandelions are consummate ruderals, able productive pioneers. A single head may bear 150 seeds, a single plant more than 5000, all without sex. Offspring are cast to the wind, travel far, and germinate and grow in almost any kind of soil (or lie dormant for years in the seed bank). If there’s enough habitat, dandelions soon become abundant (source, including photo).
|Photo courtesy Dan Poelma.|
Lots of people consider dandelions loathsome pests, but I love them. They’re among the first flowers to bloom in spring and among the last in fall. Their sunny heads seem so cheery on those dull gray and brown days. Indeed, I smiled when I saw scrappy little dandelions growing amid debris, concrete and snow.
Is that a young flower head in the center? Wow!
On the way home, my theory about warm microsites was finally validated, in the alley behind the brewery.
Grass thrives thanks to periodic warm showers.
Another favorable urban microsite.
It's true – the scenery was dull and the vegetation meager. Yet it was a fascinating outing, and in fact hunting for street plants is always interesting. Would you like to give it a try? Our adventures are kindly organized by Lucy of Loose and Leafy. There's more information here and here.
“recognise in it a spirit of adventure usually lacking in a road of unexceptional suburban housing, along with a spirit of genuine scientific enquiry.” — Lucy