Banana Trees and Guerrilla Sunflowers

One of my most popular posts has been one from last year about banana trees, and searches related to bananas, fruit trees, and the like are regularly at the top of the search terms used to find this blog. Regular readers and Berkeley gardeners may remember, however, the past winter’s rare cold spell and its damage to plants. As a result, I was not expecting to satisfy eager banana Googlers with more photos of local bananas. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I was walking in South Berkeley near Alta Bates Hospital and spotted a bunch of bananas growing on a tree in front of a house on Dana street! As you can see from the photo, the bananas are quite green and probably don’t stand much of a chance of ripening completely now that we are into October. Nonetheless, it was fun to see the bananas and thing about the cycle of plant life.

And speaking of plants, I have spotted a few instances of guerrilla gardening while out walking during the summer and fall. “Guerrilla gardening” involves acts of planting seeds and plants secretly or without asking for permission. This might be in the form of throwing wildflower seed balls (seeds mixed with compost and clay) in to a vacant lot or sneaking some vegetables into a landscaped bed of annual flowers. Near the Here/There art that I wrote about a few weeks ago, was a huge sunflower in an otherwise unplanted area near the intersection. The photo above was taken at the building site for the David Brower Building/Oxford Plaza in downtown Berkeley. The development, which is under construction now after several years of negotiations, is expected to open in 2009. I have also seen little gardens planted in various abandoned spaces in other parts of town, but I’ll leave those unnamed. If you are interested in reading more about guerrilla gardening, a book was published on the subject earlier this year, Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto. I haven’t read that one yet, but I can recommend two other books with information on the subject: Avant Gardening (published by Autonomedia) and Urban Wilds, edited by local author Cleo Woelfe-Erskine. 



  1. Georgia said

    Too bad about the bananas, but I believe you can boil green bananas, a tasty side dish for salt fish and other savory foods. I ate this dish a lot growing up, but I don’t know if the Berkeley bananas are the same bananas used in the Caribbean.

    As for guerilla gardening, check out the Toronto Public Space Committee guerilla gardening project, Garden for the Environment in SF sponsored a guerilla gardening bike tour (mentioned in an Eaton and Sullivan article in the SF Chronicle), and here in Berkeley, guerilla gardening was used in the most recent UCB-landscape architecture planning process for the Santa Fe ROW.

  2. Mark said

    There’s a nice cluster of banana trees close to the sidewalk on Milvia between Vine and Cedar that has flowered and produced tiny (very tiny!) bananas for the past two summers. I think in order to ripen them around here, you need to put a bag over them while they are still on the tree. Even then, I’m not sure these particular bananas would taste good enough to eat.

  3. reptillycus said

    Plants can grow by themselves, they don’t have to be planted by “gardeners”. They are smarter than we think…

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