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What is a plant to you?


For some people a plant is food, or shelter. Maybe it's firewood. Maybe it's the cotton for your clothing or the roses in your garden. It might be a tree that gives you welcome shade or an invasive vine you're trying to eradicate. It might be a god. 


Plants have made us who we are as human beings, determining our evolution as a species, playing a pivotal role not only in our physical development, but in our arts, sciences, politics, and spirituality. 


Campus Botanica


Campus Botanica was created as part of a collaboration between UBC's Creative Writing Program and the Social Ecological Economic Development Studies Program (SEEDS). It is one of several place-based interactive installations by writing students on campus. Campus Botanica's goal is to engage passers by with culturally diverse ways of seeing and relating to the plants around them. Each of the 120 signs approaches a plant from a different point of view. Some perspectives offered include botany, chemistry, traditional uses, linguistics, poetry, history, religion, food, medicine, or simply humour. ​Often, there are mutliple signs for the same species of plant, demonstrating different way of relating to it. 


Locations on the UBC Campus


The signs are scattered all over campus, much like easter eggs. The hope is that once you see a few it will get you curious and looking for more. There are a few areas of higher concentrations, most noticeably in the Beaty Biodiversity Museum native plant courtyard.




Many, many people contributed to this project at all stages, from conception to content to editing to production and installation. They include the following, to whom I am very grateful: 


Timothy Taylor, UBC Dept. of Creative Writing

Liska Richer, SEEDS program, UBC

Michael Peterson, Community Development, UBC

Dean Gregory, Landscape Architect, UBCKathleen Harrison, Botanical Dimensions

Douglas Justice, UBC Botanical Gardens

Nancy Turner, University of Victoria

Daniel Mosquin, UBC Botanical Gardens where all the signs were engraved

Jamie Fenneman

Curtis Bjork

Pierre Johnstone, BC Ministry of Forests

Jackie Chambers, Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Linda Jennings, UBC Herbarium

Shona Ellis, UBC Dept. of Biology

Yukiko Stranger-Galey, Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Eric La Fountaine, UBC Botanical Gardens

Wendy Frith, especially for the logo and illustration

Claire Shannon

Diederik Wolsak

Austin Campbell

Greg Thrift, UBC landscaping


A special thanks to Derek Tan at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum for the excellent design work!


A few resources


In addition to consulting local experts, I also dove into many books. Here is a selected list: 


Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge by Nancy Turner


Food Plants of Coastal First Nations by Nancy Turner


What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz


Plants as Persons by Matthew Hall


Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy McKinnon


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer


A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieves


Drink in the Wild and Cedar by Hilary Stewart








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