Flora of weeds

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 Flora of Weeds Hallgrímskirkja Church, Reykjavík Iceland.  1st December 2013 – 2nd February 2014.

Weeds are plants that grow in the wrong place and often in large quantities. They tend to be efficient at distributing seeds and are therefore very widespread and undesirable. They settle in places they are not supposed to grow in, such as beside sidewalks, in the middle of yards, and in flower beds in between other plants that are considered more beautiful and less aggressive. Upon closer examination, the weeds are efficient, tolerant and beautiful plants. Some of them are edible, medicinal and used for tea. It is people’s subjective judgment which categorizes them as weeds. If one changes one’s thinking they can be seen as talented plants that produce beautiful flowers and can be useful for many things. They are part of the diverse community of plants that prosper around Hallgrímskirkja.

Last fall I collected roots and seeds from the region of Hallgrímskirkja, mainly from Thingholtin and Norðurmýri. The seeds and roots have been dormant since the fall, the roots in boxes in my yard and the seeds in the refrigerator. At the beginning of October the roots and seeds were awoken from their sleep and planted in soil under growth lights in a warm greenhouse. By the time of the opening of the exhibition, the plants will think spring has arrived and that it is time for them to start growing. They are in the wrong place, in the wrong season and also in the wrong context. I find it interesting to view the weeds in the context of the church. The lobby of the church is temporarily changed into a green house. If you look at the role of the greenhouse and the church they have many things in common. Both offer nutrition, warmth, shelter and cherish life.

Plants were first registered in Iceland in the year 1750. The plants in that register are considered old plants in the country. It is impossible to know for sure what plants were here before the first human settlement on the island. Plants registered after 1750 are considered immigrant plants but naturalized, which means that they are considered to be part of the Icelandic Flora, since they have planted firm roots in the country for a long time and have settled so well that it is unlikely that they will disappear again. Scatterings are plants that come and go; they arrive here frequently but don’t manage to settle down permanently. The plants that are considered to be a part of the Icelandic Flora therefore depend on definition. From the plants that I collected around Hallgrímskirkja there are three which are not mentioned in the Icelandic Flora register by Stefán Stefánsson until in the III edition from 1948. This means that they settled Iceland between 1924 – 1948. They have therefore only recently been naturalized, if you look at the long history of the settlement of plants in Iceland. These are Sweed Cicely , Common groundsel and Coltsfoot. Forget-me-not’s also first appeared in the II edition of the Icelandic Flora Register, which means that they settled in Iceland between 1901 – 24. Other plants in the exhibition have been here much longer.

For the duration of the exhibition, the priests and staff of Hallgrímskirkja shared the responsibility of watering the plants.

Plants in the exhibition: Angelica, (Angelica archangelica), Yarrow, (Achillea millefolium), Sweed Cicely, (Myrrhis odorata), Dandelion, (Taraxacum spp), Chickweed, (Stellaria media), Common groundsel, (Senecio vulgaris), Shepherd’s-purse, (Capsella bursa-pastoris), Coltsfoot, (Tussilago farfara), Fringed Willow herb, (Epilobium ciliatum), Creeping buttercup, (Ranunculus repens), Forget-me-not, (Myosotis arvensis), Hairy bittercress, (Cardamine hirsute, birdeye pearlwort, (Sagina procumbens), Mouse-ear chickweed, (Cerastium fontanum), Sorrel. Rumex acetosa

The exhibition was done in collaboration with Vernharður Gunnarsson horticulturalist at Storð nursery.

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