14 September 2007

Forgotten purple fountain grass

There's a long wooden planter on the west side of Dolores Street (between 16th and 17th Sts.) that contains Pennisetum setaceum or Purple Fountain Grass. The planter looks like someone's attempt to spruce up the block, but now it seems a little worse for wear. The grass shares the box with a wilted geranium and a dying vine clinging to a three-foot-high trellis. The purple grass itself seems in need of watering. Only a few purple plumes rise up from the deep purple and tan leaves.

What happened to this planter? Did the person who put it on the street move away for a better job in another city? Has anyone taken over the care of the box? I poured a glassful of water into the box and hoped for the best.

A few weeks ago I would not have taken a second look at this planter. Now it seems a poignant street artifact.

By the way, fountain grass is considered a problematic and invasive species, especially in Hawaii. The grass is from northern Africa but valued as an ornamental because of its beauty and its ability to thrive almost anywhere. Some have called it a "noxious weed" because it crowds out native plants and it burns easily, thus spreading wildfires. It's funny that a grass that brings natural beauty to Dolores Street could also be seen as a threat by real botanists to the natural landscape of the region.

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