Weeds and Urban Biodiversity
Our lab has founded several projects focused on urban and global weeds with the understanding that these misunderstood plants are true success stories when it comes to survival, spread, and dominance. Within this field I focus on the love-hate relationship we have with weeds, the evolutionary and ecological processes affecting urban weeds, the biodiversity of weeds in cities, the opinions and symbolic value of weeds in different cultures worldwide, and of course, edible and toxic weeds. I also use weeds as an important teaching tool, as it is an easily accessible resource for plant biology, evolution, and ethnobotany studies in any school area.
- Parking Lot Weed Research from Prof. Struwe’s Lab Featured on “Plants are Cool, Too” Series
Dr. Chris Martine, the David Burpee Chair in Plant Genetics and Research at Bucknell University, and his film team have been producing the video series, “Plants are Cool, Too,” which is co-sponsored by the Botanical Society of America. The goal is to highlight that plant research is indeed cool, fascinating, and important. The episode, “Extreme Weeds of Parking Lots,” features the extreme plant life of the asphalt jungle and the research of Associate Professor Lena Struwe’s lab. It was sponsored by the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, the video was filmed in Cook Campus parking lots in October 2014.
- Eat Your Weeds: Edible and Wild Plants in Urban Environmental Education and Outreach.
Lauren Frazee, Sara Morris-Marano, Jennifer Blake-Mahmud, & Lena Struwe
- From Seeds to Symbols: Dandelion Design In Our Lives
Essay by Dr. Lena Struwe in designobserver.com
- The Love and Hate of Dandelions: The Botanical Background for Symbolism of Dandelions in Contemporary Society.
Abstract Detail for Presentation at the Botany 2018 Conference: Of all weedy plants in the Northern Hemisphere, dandelions are likely simultaneously the most beloved and the most hated. The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a ubiquitous species in worldwide urban, suburban, and rural areas alike, and a well-known plant by most people, including those who otherwise have no botanical education. Its biological and visual features have led the dandelion to become a commonly used symbol associated with many strong human feelings, from hope and dream fulfillment, invasion and travel, to rebellion and politics, and other human issues not directly related to biology. The focus of this talk is a quick evaluation and discussion of the contemporary (1950-onwards) symbology and use of dandelions, especially when it comes to commerce, advertisement, and design. The symbolic values and their close linkage to morphological features of this plant will be highlighted, showing a close connection between the evolution of biological plant features associated with “weediness” and our abstract and real-life issues in contemporary human life. My analysis of visual and verbal symbology of dandelions in contemporary media (printed and digital, including social media), products for sale and advertisements, comics and memes, and other public displays and objects show that dandelions are used as positive, negative, or neutral value markers in both verbal and visual semiotics. It appears that dandelions are simultaneously connected to our innermost hopeful dreams and worst fears. This is the first study that connects the contemporary symbolism of dandelions in the marketplace to the biological features of the living organism.