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Oahu-based public artist Gaye Chan once told me and Marko that we were part of her lost tribe. If by that she means we are into Free Stores, foraging free food, and eating weeds, then yes, we are!

We would often “take, leave, whatevas” from the Free Store (complete with Free Fridge) that she built at the University of Hawaii Art Department. And she recruited us to set up the Kaimuki Public Library branch of her Seed Station system to help people save and share seeds.

Most recently Gaye has been showing people how to get Free Food by eating weeds! She has just launched a new Weeds section of her website, explaining in both Pidgin and Standard English why eating weeds will make you free. There are beautiful illustrations, information about identifying common Hawaii weeds (many of which are common in temperate climates too), and plenty of recipes.

Gaye and collaborators are also holding workshops where you can taste weeds and learn to cook them. Check it out and tell us what you think! Do you eat weeds where you are? How did you learn how to find and cook them?


Image credits: top image, screenshot from nomoola.com showing illustration by Terra Keck. Other images: photos by Leslie Kuo of artwork/resources by Gaye Chan.

Rustic lei made of German wildflowers and plants.

Sorry so silent! I’ve been busy arranging flowers in Honolulu, Beacon (where another Urban Plant Researcher recently wed!) and the German countryside, sometimes into bouquets and more often into lei.

Mahalo to the Hui Hana Lei Ladies who taught me to make haku lei in my last month in Hawaii. If you’re on Oahu, please visit their annual lei-making class this Thursday. I just posted about my experience making lei with the lei ladies, and more about their class, here on my other blog, Local Color.

About a year ago, I reported a hairy house near the Castro and the Mission Districts in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve seen other exteriors covered in similar plant matter. Not as hairy as last year’s encounter, but striking in a similar manner. Most of these were found in my neighborhood so I’d be curious what I might discover in other parts of the city. Have fun taking a virtual tour of these plant covered buildings or see them in person. I’ve noted the cross streets below. Also, feel free to share any other ones you may come across in your city.


16th St. & South Van Ness St., San Francisco: A mosaic of plants – a work in progress?


Exterior details

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Came upon these handy guides for campers and outdoorspeople on Edible Plants and Poisonous Plants in the Wilderness. I’m about to move across two oceans so I would like to give them away to any loyal reader or contributor to this blog. They are pocket-sized and come with handy protective sleeves for your outdoor adventures. Please post a comment if you’re interested, and email your shopping address to urbanplantresearch at gmail dot com. 

Sausage-like fruits hanging from the sausage tree at the UH Manoa campus/arboretum.

Sausage tree.

Towering tropical trees, from ulu (breadfruit) to rainbow shower, amaze me every time I visit the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus here in Honolulu. “It’s like a botanical garden,” I was just saying yesterday. Today, the local newspaper announced that the campus has just received international accreditation as an arboretum: one of only 135 in the world!

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Giant poplar tree in a graveyard in Berlin, Friedrichshain from Monumentaltrees.com.

Do you like big, old trees? Well, you can find 22,446 big and old trees (with more posted every day) on the amazing international Monumental Trees website. My colleague, the writer and literary translator Isabel Cole, posted some great Berlin trees from the site today, and I knew I had to share this resource with you. monumentaltrees.com

Above: a giant black poplar in a graveyard in Berlin-Friedrichshain at Landsberger Allee and Friedenstraße. This graveyard used to be my backyard.

Have fun combing the website for big trees in your area, or making a virtual world tour of momentous trees. Do post the link below if you find any special specimens.

New year, new plants


Please welcome two new guests. Starting from the left to the right: a Mickey Mouse cactus and a rubber plant, courtesy of the San Francisco Flower Mart. I’ve been on a hunt for new houseplants and had a field day making my selections.

The disc-like shape of the Mickey Mouse cactus was comical and unexpected at first sight. After chatting with the shopkeeper, I learned that the cactus will grow ears. The number of ears is a mystery but a Google image search yields humorous and unpredictable results (Mutant Mickeys!). I also learned that each ear can propagate when cut from the main cactus pad so I’m wondering how many Mickeys can be made by the end of the year. As far as the rubber plant goes, the maintenance is a bit different from some of my other houseplants. In addition to watering the plant, it is common to wipe down its leaves as they are thick and rubbery and have a tendency to collect dust and residue from the elements. In a way, this plant feels a bit like furniture.

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