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Railroad weeds | by kevin dooley
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Railroad weeds

One of the awesome things about railroads is what is immediately adjecent to them. Whether apartments in an urban area or the wild growth alongside this track in Indiana, there's always something interesting to see.


Contrary to some's belief, this is not "prarie", or original grassland, growing besides the track. This is the same as believing if you don't tend to your backyard that the prarie will return. It will not.


Praries are complex ecosystems and thus need not only time but space to recur. Now, if you had 10 acres, then yes, you could restore the land to its earlier ways. But on any land, perimeters are always dominated by certain species and plants, things like "weeds" and rats and icky bugs... and that's exactly what train tracks are, a boundary.


In the 90's they built the Biosphere in Tucson, Arizona, as a grand experiment to see if they could create a self-sustaining, oxygen-generating environment. They attempted to recreate over a dozen different ecosystems under one closed roof. The experiment failed--in the long run the system couldn't generate enough oxygen for the humans staying inside, One of the interesting observations was that the team spent most of their day "weeding". In other words, they hadn't succeeded in building a dozen ecosystems, just a dozen sets of boundaries.


So yes, weeds and nasty critters dominate the boundaries of our earth systems. But who says weeds aren't pretty?


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Taken on July 23, 2008