alienweeds, the invasive species harvest

The weeds of Washington, D.C.

An arm of Rock Creek Park, Whitehaven Parkway supports a maturing forest. As early successional Tulip Poplars fall, young saplings of White Oak, Sugar Maple and American Beech stand by to fill gaps in the canopy. But the light-drenched areas created by fallen trees are swarmed by invasive plants, which smother saplings and arrest forest succession.

These critical areas are a primary focus of our harvesting, where we extract exotic vines to liberate hardwood saplings.

Invasive plants are also removed, with permission, from nearby community gardens, city properties and private lands.

A working (incomplete) list of local exotic weeds and the materials they provide:


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  NAME:
Common,
Scientific
Leaves Stems Roots Flowers
fruits, seeds
 

Irish Ivy
Hedera hibernica

Cooked in an alkaline solution, neutralized to form dark, greenish-brown ink. Steamed, stripped, shredded, cooked and heavily beaten, vine xylem yields a soft, brittle, tan paper that responds well to letterpress printing; wood is dense, small in diameter, used for small printing blocks. Dried, shredded and burned for carbon black. Skins of ripe seeds yield a purple pigment in ethanol.
  Garlic Mustard
Alliaria petiolata
Can be cooked and eaten in early spring; otherwise, sent to the landfill to avoid allelopathic impacts. Stripped of leaves, stems are cooked and moderately beaten to yield a moderately strong, greenish, rattly paper, which is slightly resistant to ink. Root crown bears a purple nugget of anthocyanins that may be ground into a pH-sensitive purple wash.  
 

Asiatic Bittersweet
Celastrus orbiculatus

  Stringy inner bark is steamed, stripped from vines, scraped of outer bark, cooked in alkali for a tough, pinkish fiber that may be spun into cordage or beaten to form strong, soft, pink sheets of paper. Bright orange outer bark is peeled and soaked in ethanol to extract a reddish ink of carotenoids. Ground fruit coats yield a bright orange pigment.
 

White Mulberry
Morus alba

Soaked in ethanol to extract chlorophyll pigments, Inner bark, stripped, scraped and cooked, yields a strong, bright-white paper. Wood (moderately hard, straight-grained and deep yellow, turns brown in sunlight) is used for fuel, carbon black, framing and printing blocks.   Edible fruits crushed in ethanol to extract a purple pigment.
  Tree of Heaven
Ailanthus altissima
Petioles cooked and beaten to form strong, soft, tan sheets of paper. High moisture content in wood makes it difficult to mill, dry and keep from warping, but after planing the wood is light, blonde, wide-grained.    
  Paper Mulberry
Broussonetia papyrifera
Composted White inner bark is the source for legendary Japanese hand-made paper (washi), which is strong, light-cream colored and absorbent. Stems are dried and burned for fuel or carbon black.    
 

Multiflora Rose
Rosa multiflora

Composted In the month of March, the green bark of tender young canes is steamed, stripped and cooked, yielding thin, wiry fibers used to make paint brushes (and soft pink paper). Older canes provide coarse, brown fibers (and chocolate-brown paper.) Woody stems are burned for carbon black. Cooked in alkali to extract a strong, rusty-brown ink. Or, boiled in water, which is reduced down to a pinkish rust pigment.  
 

Norway Maple
Acer platanoides

  Wood used for bas-relief carving, woodblock printing and picture-frame moulding. Scraps burned for carbon black.    
  Leatherleaf
Mahonia

Mahonia bealei
Soaked in ethanol to extract bright green chlorophyll-based pigment Inner bark is soaked in ethanol to extract a fluorescent yellow gum that is soluble in both water and oil.   Purple fruits are edible.
 

Wineberry
Rubus phoenicolasius

Composted   Cooked in alkali to extract a strong, brownish-red ink. Bright red fruits are edible.
  Japanese Honeysuckle
Lonicera japonica
Cooked in alkali, neutralized to form a greenish-black ink Stringly inner bark forms a fibrous golden-yellow paper.    
 

Devil's
Tear-thumb

Persicaria perfoliata

  Whole vines (without leaves) yield a silky pink paper when heavily beaten.    
  Rose of Sharon
Hibiscus syriacus
Bruised and soaked in water for formation aid Thick white bast fibers yield a bright, creamy paper. Wood is fine, dense and brilliant white.    
 

Porcelainberry
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata

  In alkali, the white bast becomes black, which washes out to reveal stiff, brown fibers used for making brushes.    

Text and images © 2009, Patterson Clark; Web design by alienweeds