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Invasive Plants: Artist Creates Ink from Crushed Invasive Weeds

Dec 07, 2015 05:41 PM EST
Artist Patterson Clark transforms invasive plants and trees into inks and materials that he uses in his art.
(Photo : Painting by Patterson Clark)

With invasive plants clogging up parks around the continent, what's to be done about the little (and big) vine-y rascals?

One artist, Patterson Clark, is crushing stems, leaves and roots of a long list of the fast-growing weeds and vines and extracting inks from them. He derives gorgeous hues: gray, mushroom-y notes from the garlic mustard root's crown; a flat, bottle-green of bush honeysuckle bark; and pure, sunny yellow from leatherleaf mahonia bark, sometimes called leatherleaf holly. Not to mention the coral-y tone with origins in the thorny, land-wrapping stems of multiflora rose; the dark, watercolor-y rust that comes from Asiatic bittersweet roots; or the pure, chalkboard black of soot from burned weeds.

Clark, a science graphics editor with the Washington Post, has degrees in both biology and art/design and has created art from invasive plants for 10 years. He also glues fibers from multiflora rose's inner bark, European stinging nettle, porcelainberry and white mulberry into bamboo stems to put together paintbrushes. The frames for his prints also come from invasive tree species, as Nature Conservancy magazine reported.

On his website, Clark notes that he and his team harvest invasives from an arm of Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., called Whitehaven Parkway. The trees include Tulip Poplars, White Oak, Sugar Maple and American Beech. In areas where fallen trees let in light, invasive plants gather and take oxygen and space from yount trees. Clark takes non-native vines from these areas to make room for the saplings. 

Land managers around North America tend to welcome volunteers who tear out invasive plants to make room for greater biodiversity and local plants that use the land more efficiently. Each year, for instance, many parks encourage visitors to pick garlic mustard and make pesto from it. You might want to check with public land managers near you to see if they need volunteers. If you'd like to see more of Clark's work using invasive plants, go to his website here

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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