Guerrilla Botany

Apart from a brief visit to Loch Lomond NNR to carry out essential safety checks I haven’t been to a National Nature Reserve for nearly two months. Like many people my world has grown a bit smaller.

However, on my daily walk around the little corner of West Fife that I call home, I noticed chalk signs, additional to the rainbows and messages of support for the NHS appearing on the streets labeling the plants that grow in the cracks and gaps in pavements, kerbs, and walls.

All of these chalk messages make a great change from crisp packets, drinks cans, dog eggs and other unpleasant street decorations.


Hairy Bittercress Cardamine hirsute

It cheered me up to see these wee signs. I’ve no idea who wrote them, but they’ve popped up all over town, As they’re written in chalk they don’t last long, a bit of rain and they start to fade.

The trend started in Toulouse last year. In 2017 the French Gov’t banned pesticides in public places (they now control weeds where necessary with weed burners). The result was an increase in street plants or as some would define them, weeds.

Its’ spread to towns cities and communes across Europe and beyond, creating an entertaining outdoor classroom, with citizen science.

Here’s a selection of West Fife street flora – some of the chalk has got a bit blurry because of overnight rain.


Smooth Sow Thistle Sonchus oleraceus


Common Scurvy Grass Cochlearia officinalis


Common Groundsel Senecio vulgaris


Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca

The wild plants that smatter the urban environment have only recently been acknowledged as an important source for pollinating insects. With the catastrophic loss of flying insect biomass throughout Europe – 75%; and that’s in areas protected for nature – these plants are increasingly important. If anyone wants a terrifying read to keep them up at night the following article goes into great detail on the decline of insects 

Any help for insects is more than welcome and the provision of habitat, even in the most unlikely looking areas, is a cause for hope.

If anyone wants to indulge their passion for these wonderful wild flowers I have to point out that making chalk marks without permission on the pavement is against the law. The key phrase in that sentence is “without permission”; which I would advise anyone to obtain first.

For any bad boy/girl rebel, botanical bandits – you act at your own risk.


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3 Responses to Guerrilla Botany

  1. Ladylanders says:

    Great article, Steve. I’ve just started (or stopped?) creating a ‘no mow’ section of the front lawn with the aim of seeing what different wee plants will get their heads up and hopefully also eventually providing a nectar buffet and long grasses for lots of different insects. Hopefully this weekend’s rain will get everything growing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So tempted to do that in my neighborhood here in the States.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Craig Wilson says:

    I hadn’t heard of this but I think it’s a great idea. Acknowledging their names might make people appreciate them a little more. Going to look for some chalk…

    Liked by 1 person

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