Cities are tough on plants; displacing, simplifying species richness, limiting dispersal and slowing establishment of vegetation. Yet some plants persist and succeed in urban landscapes without human intervention. Understanding the success of these plants could improve green space management. These plants are usually known as ‘weeds’, but in scientific literature we refer to them as ‘spontaneous’. These plants share our social and ecological timeline, and reflect our transition to sedentary life, but despite these potential benefits and opportunities, spontaneous vegetation in urban ecosystems remains poorly understood.
My research focuses on spontaneous plants that colonise and persist on green roofs. Green roofs are engineered systems for growing plants on rooftops. I want to better understand how the survival strategies of spontaneous plants – along with the green roof environment itself – influence their success. Beyond this, I want to find out how spontaneous plants influence green roof functionality. In an increasingly urbanised world with uncertainty around future climate, the practical benefits of spontaneous vegetation may outweigh other considerations.