In the context of the Wild Garden Utopia project, Kitti Gosztola and Bence György Pálinkás produce a fictional account of their favourite alien plant, with some intertexts from nineteenth-century botanical sci-fi and Slovak folklore.

Wild Garden Utopia is a science fiction presented through storytelling, joint work, shared meals, installations, and a video. A wishful thinking: what can be the best-case scenario after the inevitable collapse of the earth’s ecosystem. 
In the 1840s, a single piece of a female Japanese knotweed arrived at a garden in Leiden from Japan and soon it was named the “most interesting ornamental plant of the year” by the Society of Agriculture and Horticulture, Utrecht. In 1870, William Robinson promoted the extraordinary plant in his influential book The Wild Garden on plants that can grow with minimal human interaction imitating the wilderness. Having a wild garden has become fashionable. The Japanese knotweed soon escaped from captivity and started to act naturally, spread around the gardens, and beyond.
In 2022, the Japanese knotweed covers huge areas in Europe and North America. These colonies are still from that single female plant: in the West, all Japanese knotweed are female and genetically identical, since without a male plant it can spread only asexually, with vegetative reproduction (a new plant grows from a fragment of the parent plant or grows from a rhizome).
Now, we look at this plant from an anthropocentric point of view. We see a plant that can destroy infrastructure: houses, walls, roads, but in its natural habitat, the volcanic land, it is the first plant capable of breaking through the lava and pioneering for other living organisms. In the cities, it just does the same with concrete. The Japanese knotweed seeks to build a new ecosystem in the hostile urban lands.
Wild Garden Utopia takes place in the future when a new ecosystem emerges from the ruins of the old. In the first phase of this fresh ecosystem, the pioneer species Japanese knotweed is forming a vast monoculture covering the former Western world. The plant is the key resource for the few humans to survive until a more diverse equilibrium will form in a million years. Until then they need to find peace with the plant, and use it as food, to build, and to play. 


In these new chapters of our project at Grounding ~ Seeding,, Bratislava, we focus on humans who masquerade as plants and on plant effigies made to imitate humans.
The Japanese knotweed is often anthropomorphized and criminalized then sentenced to death as “terrorist weed”, “garden terrorist”, or “female monster”. 
In Slovak folklore, the figure of Morena (the versions of this effigy can be found all over Europe, and beyond) is represented by a figure made of plant, typically straw. To end winter, and purge all the evil from the lands, Morena has to be sacrificed. They tear her clothes, burn her, and drown her. 
We see a connection between the treatment of the Morenas and the Japanese knotweed, both of which are considered evil and therefore destroyed.
The gesture of imitating a plant is traditionally linked to the harvest when people are covered by straw leading marches and celebrations of the food for the next year. To disguise as a plant, to try to be one, to animate them, and to worship them is a position rooted in vulnerability to nature. In the future, we imagine that this dependency is evident, but for now it is something we need to have in mind.

Photos by Adam Šakový.