Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Field Notes--out of the Cracks

I admit to being fascinated by plants of any kind that grow up out of cracks in concrete or asphalt.  Years ago my mom pointed out a funny photo in the Indy Star to my dad--of a corn plant (already 5 feet tall or so), with an ear of corn no less, growing up out of a crack in the concrete in the median of US 31.  The photo was captioned "Purdue Ag Department Experiment".  We all thought it was hilarious--and it had the effect of making me notice for ever after *anything* growing up out of a crack. 

Moss is lovely:

...growing out of the crack between the street and a damp stone wall.  I dearly love moss--I nearly always touch it if I find some.'s even nicer if you get down on your hands and knees and have a closer look (this must be why my pants always have a hole in the knee).  See?  It looks like a succulent, doesn't it?  Click on that photo, won't you, so you can see it properly.  Up close you wonder, is that how moss flowers?  Or is something else growing up from beneath the moss?

Then there are those small, flat-growing plants that everybody just walks right over without noticing:

...coming right up between the asphalt of the sidewalk and the concrete block top of the river wall.  I honestly admire plants like this--they just exude that "never-say-die" spirit, don't they:))  This is the sort of plant that gardeners *hate* pulling from out between their bricked walkways.  It has strong roots--it doesn't pull up easily. 

Take a closer look--click on that photo, if need be.  See those wee flowers?  Up close, it's rather attractive, no?  It's Kohakobe, or stellaria media.  Nearly invisible stars of flowers that we walk over every day.  It's growth habit ensures the plant won't be fatally damaged, although I don't think it *enjoys* being trod upon.  There's also a close relative of this one called, appropriately enough, stellaria neglecta.

But, hands down, my best find recently was this gigantic thing coming up between a wall and the sidewalk next to the Circle K across from the bus center:

...*exactly*.  What the heck is that?!  Look at that broken asphalt!  Look at that enormous, fat stem bursting from a man-made ground!  Oh--right, you want to know what it is.

Yup--that is cock's comb, the popular backyard garden plant.  Taller than my daughter.
And though it may look artfully arranged there around O-Jizo Sama, I don't think anybody planted it on purpose in the crack between that step and the parking lot asphalt.

 ....besides, it was coming up in several other places as well.  This is not the kind of sidewalk-crack-plant you walk over without noticing.  I saw this stuff coming up in this place last year and just assumed it was a fluke, or maybe a joke.  Nope.  Came right back up again this year--same places by the Circle K parking lot and along the sidewalk and wall up to the Kumon classroom.

Makes a nice visual metaphor for perseverance, don't you think?

Here's a closer look at O-Jizosama (below):

Unusually for O-Jizosama, he has several pair of arms behind, and not what I'd call
a beatific expression:))

Lots of people in our hurried modern-day world tell themselves they need to "stop and smell the roses".  So they look around, don't see any roses or smelly flowers, and hurry on with their busy-ness, never noticing the strong, persistent life beneath their feet.  To that I say--get thyself a field book!  Those plants have names, too:))

Mata asobou, ne!

p.s.--I found last week's Yabukarashi coming up out of a crack next to the bus depot.

 Gambare, Yabukarashi!
                                                                                       ...Never say die!


  1. Amy.
    I, too, am fascinated by the life beneath my feet. The amazing tenacity of a little
    Plant forcing it's way through a finger's breadth gap in the stone is truly inspiring. Anything that clings to existence despite the odds is going to get a nod from me. My particular favorites are the lone trees standing out it the midst of a vast prairie. Scraggly and tough, they are bastions of the will to survive.
    You have a great site here Amy. It offers such a normalizing view of such a different place from what most of us know. You have a great insight. Thanks.

  2. Hi, KK! Thanks so much:)) Ah--a lone tree in the prairie. That image makes me a little homesick for America...

    "...a normalizing view..."--do you know, that when the plane touched down and I got my first glimpse of Japan, I was disappointed. Because the grass looked the same as american grass. I don't know why I thought japanese grass ought to look different, but it does highlight my overheated imagination about Exotic Japan...:))

  3. Had to look stellaria media up on wikipedia, then phone my Mum. Wikipedia says it's chickweed, but I could have sworn Mum called it something else. I explained what it looked like. She wandered into the garden and described it back to me, then we had to agree we were both describing the same thing. Then I had to explain what a blog is... Finally she said, 'yes that's chickweed.' Ah the wonders of telecommunication...

    She's visiting in a couple of days. I'm going to show her the coxcombs. She'll love 'em.

    About the statue. A little bit of trivia I picked up is that if you want to encourage lichen to give a statue that aged look, smear some natural yoghurt on it from time to time. Don't know how much it speeds up the process, but it's still kind of interesting.

  4. Ahh--chickweed Thank you! A problem for me--this is what comes of having a field guide only in Japanese. (*smack*!) Why didn't I get field guides in English when I was at Powell's? Why? Mostly I use Wiki, too, but occasionally it lets me down. That's right--chickweed, now that I think about it. The taxonomic name is much nicer, though, I think I'll just call it that in my head:))

    Yoghurt on a statue to make lichen grow? I did not know! Have to tell my sis--they have statues and a Torii gate (made by my indefatigable brother-in-law) in their back yard. Definitely cooler with lichen! I wonder why? Maybe lichen likes the bacteria in yoghurt? (Hope your mum likes the coxcombs:))

  5. Hey Amy.

    Off topic here (big surprise, huh?), but I noticed your list of favorite movies include several of Hayao Miyazaki. I just had to pipe in on his and the rest of Studio Ghibli's absolute genius. Every movie he has touched is
    gold, and my family and I are huge fans. From My Neighbor Totoro to Princess Mononoke to Spirited Away, all are delightful little works of beauty and magnificence. I love the way he leaves the tale un-Disney-esquely complicated with the characters often ranging from good to bad depending on points of view. Spirited Away and Mononoke were particularly adept at this.

    My son at twelve still reckons these as among the best.

    The rest of your movies are also quite good but these have always been amazing.

  6. Oooh--a fellow Miyazaki fan! "Characters ranging from good to bad depending on points of view"--agreed! And, yes, I think because of the subjects of Spirited Away (best translated movie title ever!)and Mononokehime those two films were particularly nuanced. Totoro has a special place for me, though, being the first of his that I saw. I was blown away the first time I saw it. Do you know, it is so exactly drawn, that I can tell almost what week of what month it is by what flowers he depicts in the scenery. I love the way characters are completely life-like, even if not exactly realistically drawn. I love the way Mei-chan goes up those steep stairs, one step at a time, left-left-left, because she's four and that's exactly how a four-year-old would go up a steep staircase. Or the way Satsuki, because removing her shoes was too much of a bother, crawled on hands and knees, feet carefully up off the floor, to get an acorn she noticed glinting on the tatami inside. My husband does that, too. See my "Genkan" post for more on that:)) I love the way the camera will linger on a vacated spot for a moment, giving you an instant to appreciate the shading and cracks on a rock or concrete. His are films that just happen to be drawn, art that just happens to be moving.
    If you guys come to Japan, I'll take you to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo:)) So... when are ya comin'?:))