Weeds. They can be the thorn in a gardener's side, but a new project is encouraging people to embrace the wilderness and give nature a chance – by embracing, rather than hating on, weeds. The More Than Weeds project focuses on changing our perceptions of urban plants growing on walls, pavements and around trees and is asking people to take pictures of them, and to learn about the plants. Some people have even taken it one step further by naming them with chalk, helping to educate their fellow residents on the wild flora and fauna in and around their neighbourhood.
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People are sharing their urban flora and fauna findings on social media
Sophie Leguill, who started the project in the UK after working on a similar scheme in France, wants people to embrace a little green on their streets by sharing their pictures on social media tagged #morethanweeds. Sophie and the team will even help identify your findings too. "I want people to realise that there can be a 'new normal', with a little bit of green in the streets. It doesn't mean streets are neglected - it just means managing the weeds in a more nature-friendly way. For example, plants along walls or in tree pits can often be left to grow with no issue for accessibility or road safety. In France, people have also been sowing seeds like poppies or hollyhocks in pavement cracks to make their streets prettier - and it works well."
She adds: "Obviously, I can't encourage people to use chalk on pavements, but I am encouraging people to talk to their councils and explain to them why writing plant names with chalk is a free and easy way of educating people, especially children to nature (it also washes away in a few days)."
Part of the fun, says Sophie, is telling the story of the plants and weeds she's sent pictures of on social media or via her website. "Oxford ragwort, a common plant along railways and in cities, is a descendent from a plant that grows on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. And many pavement weeds are flowers that have escaped from gardens or even hanging baskets, such as lobelias, which are originally from South Africa, and I often see tomato plants popping around cafés - probably discarded from sandwiches!"
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Feedback on the project has ranged from artists who have been inspired by the wildness of weeds to people thanking the project for "opening their eyes to biodiversity on their streets" and for "seeing plants they'd never noticed before". She has also been working with local councils on how to manage the pavement plants in a more nature-friendly way, and is writing guidance on how to do so.
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