Still from the video, Into the Weeds
A series of immersive encounters with so-called invasive plants as I contemplate their value offerings in a topsy-turvy world. In the U.S. and Europe, Japanese Knotweed is one of the most hated non-native plants for the damage it can cause to an ecosystem, and yet there is no away—eradication is impossible. This series—through video, writing, zines, and ethnobotanical uses like natural dyeing—seeks to complicate our understanding of the plant and the terminology (invasive, non-native) that often others not only the species, but also the cultures and places from which they come.
Twisties, a short essay about Japanese Knotweed
My head feels like dandelion puffs floating through the sun and rain and fecundity of this summer. There is a thinness at the edges and yet a weight at the base of my skull pulling me down, repeatedly. No longer the desire to hold the spine erect, a sink in my sacrum, and down I go. I had taken for granted my crown being oriented to the celestial planes.
This summer Simone Biles dropped out of the Olympics because she got the ‘twisties’ a dangerous phenomena in which gymnasts experience a mind-body disconnect mid-air. Reorientation, upheaval, trauma—these moments rippling through us all. The roaring ‘20s. There is no going back. No normal. This is what we have to work with. The limitations are real. And so is the paradigm shift—feet above stomach, stomach above heart, heart above head. This is important.
Propped in a handstand I imagine my body entering the earth like an olympic diver and reemerging somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The West/East divide collapsing as any dichotomy must.
Touted as a wind shelter, cattle feed, and insect pollinator, Japanese knotweed was a beloved ornamental in 19th—century gardens with its red stalks, broad leaves, and late summer blossoms. Today it is North America’s most hated non-native plant carpeting swaths of land, crowding out native species, and choking waterways with its vigorous growth and adaptability to temperature, soil, and salinity. There are earnest efforts to remove it but complete eradication is impossible. We dig, burn, spray and it thrives. This is what we have to work with. The limitations are real. And so is the paradigm shift—feet above stomach, stomach above heart, heart above head.
Propped in a handstand I imagine my body entering the earth like an extensive network of rhizomes that vertically seek the antipode of the the ground on which I perch. Opportunistic, I translocate, naturalize, hybridize.
Knotweed’s adaptability bodes well for its survival in a warmer future; its vigorous growth rate allows it to absorb CO2 at a rate unmatched by most other plant species. It is an autumnal nectar for honey bees and other pollinators about to go into hibernation; young shoots are made into jams, pies, and stir fry in Asia; it possesses anti-bacterial, probiotic, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties effective in treating Lyme disease; and, the stalks can be used to make paper, beehives, and yield a yellow dye that turns orange when exposed to sunlight.
Yellow is the color of warmth, the filtered light of a daydream. It’s also the color of danger, a warning, the shape-shifting trace of an image hanging in the balance.
Nectar, a plant ally zine about Japanese Knotweed