What’s driving homogenization of the urban landscape?
Since 2011, scientists have been exploring people’s yards in six U.S. metropolitan areas–Los Angeles, Phoenix, Boston, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Baltimore. The early results show that big cities’ plants are more similar to those in other urban areas than to their own natural surroundings.
One of the concerns of researchers conducting the study is that while individual plant species may differ, plants in the landscape within a genera are very closely related. For instance, Quercus virginiana (live oak) in the South and Q. macrocarpa (bur oak) in the Upper Midwest. The study is also looking at the social and cultural forces behind urban plant selection. “…if our homes are our castles, then our yards are our feudal estates.” HOAs (homeowner associations) shape plant choice as well with landscaping restrictions.
“People might replant flower beds and tinker with lawns, but large features—from box hedges to shade trees—usually stay rooted for decades, a builder’s legacy. Working with developers and builders—as well as policy makers—may be crucial for ecologists who want to think about how to shape the urban environment in the future.” Garden center box stores will become part of the study in the future because that’s where more people go to buy plants and learn about yard management. “If big box gardens turn out to be a force behind our increasingly similar yards—and the environmental impacts that go with them—they might also be a place to work on restoring uniqueness to our green thumbprints.” (2013) August. By Cameron Walker, Pacific Standard.