What began as a pet project in Toulouse, France, has now blossomed into a global urban-plant trend — nature lovers are quietly taking over the streets of London, photographing various flora and identifying them online — and even chalking plant names onto sidewalks to share the knowledge. Chalking might be illegal in the UK without council permission, plant enthusiasts haven’t been deterred — a recent Twitter post by user Elizabeth Archer of a London plane and a sycamore tree labelled in chalk with simple descriptions in a North East London district has already garnered over 127,000 likes.
To whomever is chalking names and descriptions of trees on the pavements across Walthamstow. I love you. This made my heart sing today. pic.twitter.com/6lmauYeQVD
— Elizabeth Archer (@edarcherthinks) April 7, 2020
This movement’s beginnings can be found in a video posted last November — now viewed over seven million times — in which botanist Boris Presseq from the Toulouse Museum of Natural History in France walks around his neighborhood chalking the names of plants in an effort to highlight plant diversity in urban areas. “I wanted to raise awareness of the presence, knowledge and respect of these wild plants on sidewalks. People who had never taken the time to observe these plants now tell me their view has changed,” he said to The Guardian.
Another plant lover with the same passion for bringing unassuming wildflowers to the forefront is fellow botanist Sophie Leguil, who founded the UK-based interest group More Than Weeds that’s planning to chalk up highways in Hackney, London (with permission!) as well as run chalk walks around the city to get people curious about nature. Previously, Leguil was part of a chalking campaign led by botanist group Tela Botanica in France.
— Morethanweeds (@morethanweeds) May 13, 2020
The thriving community she has built in London doesn’t just stop at chalk walks. More Than Weeds also offers an online database where amateur botanists can identify and record plants. Data collected through the project is then passed on to scientists for research on urban species, climate change as well as pollination ecology.