Ever think people are stupid? That we’re going to kill ourselves one day? That the sooner we die-off the quicker the planet can just get on with things? Me too. As the late and very great comedian Bill Hicks once said, “we are a virus with shoes”.
But we aren’t the end of things – oh no! Everywhere you look there are signs of resurgence, signs of life – signs of hope. Where?
Plants. That’s right – plants! These clever little budders are just biding their time; waiting. They’re not afraid. They’ve got patience. They’re just sitting it out. We think we know what we’re doing, with our fancy cars and our clothes…and stuff. But these guys have really got their shit together. We build roads, they find the cracks. We put up a building, they get a buddleia to go sit on the roof. Know this my friends, they see us and laugh. Their leaves snigger, their buds chuckle. While we sit around watching talent shows, they’re out there – photosynthesising.
So don’t despair – when the world seems like a crazy place, it’s okay. Plants are just waiting to set it all right again.
This is my tribute to them.
Fig. 22: Save your Fun Guy jokes, this Spectacular Rustgill (Gymnopilus junonius) means business! Most of the year we forget they even exist and then seemingly from nowhere…scores of spores burst out! A true revolutionary waits until the time is ripe for revolution – these funny fellas have been doing it for millennia.
Fig. 21: Early morning dew clings tight to a web that hangs between two Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) bushes; a perfect example of teamwork and pooling resources. No sign of the proprietor though, she’s no fool. Like the Lavender, she knows she must just sit tight and wait.
Fig. 20: Well goodness! This house’s residents are lucky they can still get in the door with this enormous Canadian Fleabane (Conyza canadensis) on guard. Standing almost as tall as many short people, the North American’s ancestors have been this side of the water since the early 16th Century. Each of its 50,000 seeds acts like a parachute ready to take it off across enemy lines from late summer through to mid Autumn.
Fig. 19: Lots of weird things happened to architecture 4 or 5 decades ago and our good friends here have taken note. Those soulless years of design left many of us climbing the walls…none more so than this dear Ivy (Hedera helix). She’s been proactive though, showing real signs of resistance – no matter how many times she’s cut down to size, she gets back up again and again.
Fig. 18: A pretty classic shot this one – not just beautiful and what the long sunny days are all about, but a great example of things getting on well together, cohabiting in sweet harmony! This is what the planet will look like when we’re all done and dusted. It might take a while to redress the balance – a few thousand decades maybe to eat up all that plastic and all the rubbish we pump out, but then sweet bliss once more!
Fig. 17: Ha! Concrete? Metal? Manual labour?! All of it pails into insignificance when these little fellas are waiting in the wings! They know their time will come. They’ll just wait lazily, basking in the sun, lapping-up the rain, whatever helps them pass the time until the rest of those bollards give up the ghost!
Fig. 16: Ferns have been here for more than 150 million years and this brave descendent has had generations of strength and guts bred into her. Fearless and lion-like, from high up she’s showing who’s really in charge: not the stone faced pretender next door!
Fig. 15: Like most Cottoneaster’s, this little chap is destined for big things. Copying his mum and dad in the background, he too will grow a head full of beautiful bright berries. And, like secret agents sleuthing their way through the night, those berries get taken far and wide, ready to grow strong and spread the Resurgence. Who knows where they’ll end up, but enduring a sparrow or a blackbird’s digestive system first, shows their absolute dedication.
Fig. 14: Sturdy and resilient, this Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) has found her spot in an ancient Scottish wall. During her long flowering period, she attracts all sorts of attention from bees, moths and butterflies. But she’ll sit tight ’til early winter and keep spirits alive with her hermaphrodite flower heads.
Fig. 13: Nothing to see here…right? Wrong! Let’s take a look. What do we do with what we don’t want anymore? We wrap it in plastic, leave it on the side of the street waiting for someone to wake us up in the morning, put it in the back of a truck and then what? They drive it to a big whole in the ground, pile it up or ship it somewhere we won’t have to look at it again. Meanwhile, this tree’s leaves will become little winter hideouts for beetles and then finally soil again. Pah! That’s why we’re on the way out and plants are going nowhere.
Fig. 12: This little late-night gadder was just hanging out, keeping an eye on things. A real champion neighbourhood watcher! He’s not afraid to come out of the shadows and be bold. But more than that, the Groundsel’s (Senecio vulgaris) seeds can germinate within a week, which then go on to produce seeds themselves within 5 weeks: between Spring and Autumn one could produce a thousand million. What a way to start a revolution!
Fig. 11: Wow! There’s no messing here. This birch is brazen, taking root up on a low roof, then chasing that drainpipe right up the wall. These bricks will crumble, the windows shatter to tiny pieces and turn to sand once more – all in the shade of a thousand birches that will out live us all.
Fig. 10: One of their greatest strengths, is the ability to travel. And none moreso than this Fire Weed/Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), perched on a bridge that hangs over one of the city’s great rivers. With those long, tall stems, she can keep watch; cast an eye on all that sails in and out. If you need someone to spread the word, to get the message out there, then she’s got 80,000 seeds ready and waiting for the right gust of wind.
Fig. 9: Now this little chap has learnt well. He’s seen his mum, his dad, every uncle, aunt and cousin all make it to the top. They’re unstoppable! Buddleias are the life-force of the Resurgence – they shine a light, they show the way, even defy gravity. His brute strength is in his roots – soon this wall will be a pile of rubble! But he won’t turn his back on what’s really important: when summer arrives, out comes a pretty little purple flower to keep the butterflies happy. What a sweet-hearted hero!
Fig. 8: This neat little arrangement of begonias, planned and approved by the authorities, shows just what plants are all about. Where there’s space they’ll find a way. Here we have Charlock/Wild Mustard (Sinapis arvensis) barging it’s way in amongst the lipstick red. He loves it! And he’s not alone – there’s Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), Chickweed (Stellaria media) and even a fruity little Pineappleweed (Matricaria discoidea), all getting in amongst it.
Fig. 7: Many a gardener curses our good friend here; get it out of your lawn and it pops up in your drain! But, the wily Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria) has the qualities that every revolution needs: tireless resolve and an all but invincible system of underground resistance. Its roots run far too deep and wide to be dug out by even the fiercest of opposition.
Fig. 6: Ever been to a protest? Felt the power of being one of many, standing up for what’s right? Well this small army of Chickweed (Stellaria media), Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), Greater Plantain (Plantano Major) and their friends are with you comrade: they’ve seen the injustice – a fellow chloryphyll-er cut down in their prime. Proof that you don’t have to share the same sub-species, or even be in the same family, to know when to stand up and be counted.
(Big shout out to the Cabbage family who really have it going on in this grate.)
Fig. 5: What can I say? This Oxalis Corniculata is not to be messed with. All he needs is a few scraps of earth and he’s in: the secret agent of the resurgence. Not deterred by tarmac and granite, he’s found leverage. Maybe he’ll lay on the charm with delicate flowers, but try and rip him out and he’ll leave you on your knees poking around for his bulbils.
Fig. 4: Doesn’t look like much right? Well this, my friends, is more than a weed by a drain. This Greater Plantain (Plantano Major) is nobody’s fool. She’s picked her spot with military precision. Like the best of us, she needs water – and where best to find it, than where tributaries converge. But more than that, she can stem supplies to the drain’s mainframe – cut it off at the source. Inspirational leadership.
Fig. 3: Dusk falls. Revelers trickle through the streets anticipating the night ahead. As their blood warms with the giddy flow of hops, little do they know they’re under surveillance. Across the street, atop a wall, peeping through the rusty railings of an empty car park, this self-sown, self-made guardian of the night (Ligustrum Ovalifolium) counts out his starch reserves and keeps watch.
Fig. 2: Now this is classic; an ambush. They’ve taken advantage of the parking sign’s need to penetrate the concrete surface. The inevitable dip, the chance for dust to gather, for water to pool – a man-made flower bed! We can see here Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), suggestions of Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), possibly even a little Field Penny-cress (Thlaspi arvense). Notice too, nearby smatterings of green amongst the cobbles – reinforcements await.
Fig. 1: On the walls of a council owned building, this little fella knows who’s boss. Waiting for a high wind, he’s braved it – he’s held on for all he’s worth, found some purchase and made himself a home. Not only that, he’s ready to sabotage that speaker: a hero in the making.
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