What is a plant to you?
For some people a plant is food, or shelter. Maybe it's firewood. Maybe it's the cotton for your clothing or the roses in your garden. It might be a tree that gives you welcome shade or an invasive vine you're trying to eradicate. It might be a god.
Plants have made us who we are as human beings, determining our evolution as a species, playing a pivotal role not only in our physical development, but in our arts, sciences, politics, and spirituality.
Campus Botanica was created as part of a collaboration between UBC's Creative Writing Program and the Social Ecological Economic Development Studies Program (SEEDS). It is one of several place-based interactive installations by writing students on campus. Campus Botanica's goal is to engage passers by with culturally diverse ways of seeing and relating to the plants around them. Each of the 120 signs approaches a plant from a different point of view. Some perspectives offered include botany, chemistry, traditional uses, linguistics, poetry, history, religion, food, medicine, or simply humour. Often, there are mutliple signs for the same species of plant, demonstrating different way of relating to it.
Locations on the UBC Campus
The signs are scattered all over campus, much like easter eggs. The hope is that once you see a few it will get you curious and looking for more. There are a few areas of higher concentrations, most noticeably in the Beaty Biodiversity Museum native plant courtyard.
Many, many people contributed to this project at all stages, from conception to content to editing to production and installation. They include the following, to whom I am very grateful:
Timothy Taylor, UBC Dept. of Creative Writing
Liska Richer, SEEDS program, UBC
Michael Peterson, Community Development, UBC
Dean Gregory, Landscape Architect, UBCKathleen Harrison, Botanical Dimensions
Douglas Justice, UBC Botanical Gardens
Nancy Turner, University of Victoria
Daniel Mosquin, UBC Botanical Gardens where all the signs were engraved
Pierre Johnstone, BC Ministry of Forests
Jackie Chambers, Beaty Biodiversity Museum
Linda Jennings, UBC Herbarium
Shona Ellis, UBC Dept. of Biology
Yukiko Stranger-Galey, Beaty Biodiversity Museum
Eric La Fountaine, UBC Botanical Gardens
Wendy Frith, especially for the logo and illustration
Greg Thrift, UBC landscaping
A special thanks to Derek Tan at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum for the excellent design work!
In addition to consulting local experts, I also dove into many books. Here is a selected list:
Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge by Nancy Turner
Food Plants of Coastal First Nations by Nancy Turner
What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz
Plants as Persons by Matthew Hall
Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy McKinnon
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer
A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieves
Drink in the Wild and Cedar by Hilary Stewart