Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Stoepplantjes (Pavement plants)

In our lives we often have little attention or appreciation for plants, let alone the ones we commonly call weeds. This inattention for plants has been described as plant blindness. The Stoepplantjes project aspires to decrease plant blindness by changing the image of weeds and using citizen science. For this project, citizens are asked to identify the plants growing on their pavement. With this data urban plant species richness and biodiversity are mapped. The ultimate goal is to improve urban biodiversity for future proof cities.

2021 - 2025
Nienke Beets
See 'Ambassaders and Sponsors' on website Hortus Botanicus
Credit: Simone Both

This research project is built on three themes: plant blindness, citizen science and urban flora. The Hortus botanicus Leiden set out this project with a clear wish to increase interest for plants using citizen science. Thus, the Science Communication & Society group was clear partner from the start. Increasingly, the urban environment is a topic of interest for biologists and the subject of urban flora and term ‘Stoepplantjes’ quickly caught the interest of the public.

Urban flora

Urban flora is often overlooked. For example, in current popular books and films about urban nature, plants often only play a small role. This inattention is undeserved because urban flora has many virtues. Plants cool our environment, manage water run-off, clean our air, they are good for our health and for nature. Over 1300 plant species call our cities and villages their home. This constitutes approximately 66% of all wild plant species in the Netherlands. With the Stoepplantjes project we shine a light on urban flora and it’s potential to improve the urban environment for society and nature.

Citizen science and plants

With the Stoepplantjes project we study if citizen science can decrease plant blindness. It has been proposed that species knowledge and identification is a successful way to decrease plant blindness. However, studies on citizen science about plants show a pessimistic view of citizen science by scientists. Plus, a high a risk of plant misidentification by citizen participants. Therefore, we also aim to study how a citizen science project with plant identification at its core can have a low-threshold for participants and result in genuine scientific outcomes.   

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