***Spoiler alert: If you are my landlord, you might be a bit alarmed at some of the following***
A couple of months ago the landlords of Scribble Central Command fell behind on the lawnmowing schedule, and the tenants of SCC didn’t pick up the slack. It was the middle of the rainy season, and the next time we turned around the lawn had leapt up into an untameable green mess that looked like it ate lawnmower blades for breakfast.
At first I felt a bit guilty, being one of the few renters on the block, with the unruly lawn to prove it. But as the weeds grew in burliness and confidence, I started to share their pride. Yellow, white, and pink flowers craned over the timid greenness of other yards.
I started wading through the clover during coffee breaks, watching ladybugs pounce on aphids and strange, skinny, scarlet-and-black beetles post up at the tips of grass stems, motionless. The profusion, and the speed with which it had arrived, was amazing. Just how much carbon had been fixed, anyway, right here in the sideyard, since I went to Germany?
Enter the Scribble Climate Experiment.
Goal: describe the ScribbleYard’s ecological impact precisely enough to permit number-dropping at science-y parties but rudimentarily enough to allow time for surfing in the afternoon. Since these results will hardly stand up to scientific scrutiny, it also seemed a good idea to limit my use of resources.
So, using my letter-opening scissors, I clipped a patch of the lawn down to bare earth (sorry landlords). The patch was roughly 0.312 square meters, or the size of one of the tires the completely anonymous housemate had, fortuitously, just changed on his road bike. I counted the number of stems of each species in my sample except for the grass (too hard to identify, not enough of it), chucked it into two cardboard boxes and put it in the back of my car to bake in the sun for a few days.
What do you know – we’ve got some heavy duty weeds in our yard. Massive growths of Medicago polymorpha (California burclover) suggest that our lawn is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus. They also have really cool, spiny peapods that swirl into a compact, nearly spherical helix.
There’s also a lot of Geranium dissectum. There’s less Convolvulus arvensis (field bindweed) and Malva parviflora (little mallow), but they are more formidable. The bindweed, a vine related to morning glory, is so tenacious that its seeds can germinate after 60 years and suggestions for suppressing it veer toward the desperate: e.g., cover the earth with overlapping sheets of black polyethylene. The mallow can get to five feet tall and, apparently, quickly grows a woody taproot that is very difficult to remove. And these are weed experts using the word “difficult.”
In amongst it all is Erodium moschatum (whitestem filaree), which is the plant sticking its cool needly fruits into the sky at the top of this seemingly endless post.
But the really staggering part is one of those party-droppable numbers. Figuring that about 56% of the 245 sq. meter sideyard was covered with a profusion similar to what was in my sample tire plot, that means upwards of 49 thousand burclover stems and 70 thousand geranium stems. Add in the other species and there’s roughly 126,633 stems out there in the mini-forest. In two months. Cool, huh? More results to come…