“This is incredibly beautiful”, says Garry Bakker, ecologist at the Rotterdam Urban Ecology Unit. What to most people is only a dry, weedy scrap of land between the Langeveld building and the V-building, is a verdant paradise to Garry. White honey clover, camomile, ragwort (not to be eaten by humans or animals, as it is highly toxic), creeping thistle, something resembling rapeseed: they are all irresistible to insects.
Trrt trrt trrt. A brown grasshopper sings in the field. Although it looks a lot like a cricket or a field grasshopper (Chorthippus mollis), its sound is unique to the brown grasshopper. In addition to its ‘Trrt trrt trrt,’ the humming of bumblebees can be heard – red tailed Bumblebee to be precise, with full black colouring all over, except for their orange rump. Their nests are probably somewhere underground, below this little patch of heaven.
Life is drawn here to this little field, since the plants are natives and the insects recognise them straight away. “We all know about those garden seed mixes, I’m now pretty wary of them”, says Bakker. “They’re often full of non-native plants, which the insects don’t visit because they can’t recognise them. It’s wasting precious garden space.” Instead just do nothing, and wait for seeds to blow in from the surrounding area.
This dusty field of weeds also has a cooling effect. Bakker points out that it emits less heat than the gravel lying beside it. “In terms of climate adaptation, surely this is what you want? Greenery is far cooler than these loose stones. Little areas like this are also the best from a biodiversity perspective. You might call them weeds, but they are amazingly useful.”