Naming plants to recreate, even in the city, a link and respect between the human and the vegetal: this is the approach that pushed Boris Presseq, botanist at the Museum of Natural History of Toulouse, to improvise this summer marker of sidewalks.
"Wild Lettuce", "Figuier" "Eleusine from India": these inscriptions with chalk beside shoots emerging from interstices of bitumen appeared in the district of Busca, on the edge of the historic center.
Others arose in the Saint-Pierre district. Initially anonymous, their authors, Mr. Presseq and a colleague Pierre-Olivier Cochard, ended up dropping the mask, buzz on social networks requires.
The idea was born a bit by chance - "we found it funny" smiles Mr. Presseq - at the turn of a study of wild biodiversity conducted quarter by district.
It followed a first census between 2004 and 2014 of wild plants growing in Toulouse, some 800 listed species, 20% of exotic origin, escaped gardens or botanical parks.
Labellers were also inspired by the example of a former graffiti artist Frédérique Soulard from Nantes.
To better react, the duo chose to play on words. Exit the Latin names for the benefit of common denominations, preferably poetic or evocative: ruins of Rome, knotweed, or parietal of Judea.
- "Let it grow" -
"The idea of naming is very scientific, in science, you always have to put names," says Pesseq.
The operation, he hopes, should encourage people to "let these plants grow rather than tell themselves to get rid of them".
"This is the right time" for such an initiative, because with the ban coming into force of pesticide weeding in municipalities, wild flora can hope to escape eradication, he notes.
"It is still a great chance to have on our sidewalks species that grow by themselves, without maintenance, the minimum would be to pay attention."
Especially with cities overheated: "we can do all the canopies we want, if we lose the plant on the ground it is useless, it is the grassed surfaces that fight against the warming".
And to quote the pursuit gardener, "a plant that makes an awesome groundcover without any watering", or the knotweed "which adapts to trampling".
Mr. Pesseq also expresses his surprise to have discovered so many trees in the making, resemés naturally thanks to the work of dispersion of the urban birds.
"If we let Toulouse evolve without humans, the city would be covered with fig trees," he enthuses. In the meantime, "we could already feed on peaches and almonds while crisscrossing the peripherals at the end of the summer".
This goes in the direction of history for this 45-year-old botanist, who sees "the arrival of a humanity where the ornamental plants will be replaced by useful plants".
- Carnivorous Passion -
The chalk shots, "a material chosen because totally biodegradable", are only one manifestation of his passion for the plant.
The love at first sight comes just after his baccalaureate, when he sees carnivorous plants for the first time in an exhibition. He gave up mechanical engineering studies in favor of botany and then tropical agronomy, which he practiced in Thailand and then in Congo Brazzaville on behalf of FAO.
"Not too much media", the echo encountered by the operation rather made him want, as his accomplice, to move on.
"On the other hand, the best way to communicate around nature is perhaps this one, to find original ways of com that disturb a little people in their daily lives and remain accessible, free".
For the time being, he is thinking of an "experiment" to be carried out with the municipal services: "look for species that do not bother anyone and do not hinder the traffic, let them grow, and see what it gives".
© 2019 AFP