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As a California native, I grew up with an abundance of parks, hiking trails and large areas of nature within a short walking distance. That is why I was surprised that the artificial foliage and plants of New York have been catching my attention. The city’s greenery cannot compare with California’s vegetation, but I am interested in how urban dwellers find comfort and privacy in a bustling city where space is limited and its supply is competitive.

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Yayoi Kusama’s artwork is joyous, full of polka dots and mirrored rooms. But I didn’t know she had anything to do with urban plants until writer Celeste Ng tweeted about seeing “these trees, dolled up in their polka-dot finest in honor of a Yayoi Kusama exhibit” at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Grove of trees with their trunks wrapped in red material with white polka dots. Part of a Yayoi Kusama exhibit in Cleveland. Photo courtesy of Celeste Ng.Tree with its trunk wrapped in red material with white polka dots. Part of a Yayoi Kusama exhibit in Cleveland. Photo courtesy of Celeste Ng.

Celeste Ng kindly gave us permission to share her photos on our humble blog. Thank you, Celeste! Readers, please check out her Twitter: @pronounced_ing and her latest novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

High winds are prevailing in southern California and the Central Coast, reports my mother in her first, eyewitness contribution to Urban Plant Research. In Santa Barbara County, she can hardly venture outside because of winds over 25 miles per hour. She also read that over in Victorville, which lies between Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert, the wind has residents trapped inside for another reason: it has swept mountains of tumbleweeds against their houses, blocking doors and windows! Check out these Google Image search results she sent over:

Screenshot of Google Image search results for "victorville ca + tumbleweed". Each photo in the search results shows high piles of tumbleweeds in the town streets or against houses.

We here at Urban Plant Research have long been interested in tumbleweeds and urban tumbleweeds (tumbling, windblown plastic bags). Are their tumbleweeds where you live?

A report on trees

Here are some unusual tree sightings from the last few months.

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Summer cuts

It’s been one of the hottest weekends in San Francisco – reaching 102°F today. The neighborhood trees were feeling it too. A number of them were queued up to get a fresh cut. I didn’t get a shot of them in a row, but you can see the cut in progress and the finished look below. They’re reminiscent of a bowl cut – a haircut that I sported during my elementary school days.

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Before

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After

San Francisco stumps 

Marina District

West Portal

 

Japantown

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Terra the titan arum has been the talk of the town this week. She is currently on view at the Conservatory of Flowers where she began to bloom earlier today. I had the chance to check out this rare sight and smell after work. This is what I learned from my visit:

Terra was donated by a San Francisco resident who raised her for four years until she became too big for her owner’s bathroom.

The titan arum is the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world and native to Indonesia. A bloom occurs every 7-10 years and the flower emits a strong and foul odor that is often compared to rotting animal flesh in order to attract pollinators. Its putrid smell also gives the titan arum another name – corpse flower. I wonder how the smell compares to durian.

The bloom and smell is said to last for 48 hours and that Terra will be her stinkiest this evening. If you’re local, the conservatory’s hours have been extended for the next few days. There’s also a nice butterfly exhibit next door if the stench gets to be too much.

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Plant reporter for scale

For those of you who cannot see Terra in person, you can watch the Corpse Flower Live Stream.