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Unexpected Habitat

Unexpected Habitat: roundabouts, vacant lots and community gardens

By July 14, 2010February 8th, 20112 Comments

Once in awhile habitat just happens. It’s not always planned or intended, but there it is. In the city, these habitats can occur just about anywhere, in the tiniest of spaces, often where you least expect them. Sure they’re not a good as a carefully planned landscape with water, shelter and the works and the plants may not be all natives, but nonetheless, there they are providing some habitat element. In Seattle I happened upon a couple examples of these unexpected habitats, the first in the middle of an intersection in a roundabout.

I visited three roundabouts with my camera this week and stayed to watch the variety of bees visiting the many flowers. I don’t know if they were planted by the city or a neighbor, but whoever planted them with flowers certainly has the appreciation of a good number of bees. There were easily half a dozen different varieties of bees from the big bumble bees, to wasps and the tiny little bees and there were a lot of them in the tiny roundabout that was no greater than six feet in diameter.

Just down the street I found one of Seattle’s P-Patch Community Gardens. Each P-Patch is unique and the Thomas Street Gardens is a cozy, quiet lot with 32 plots and is very lovingly cared for.  It’s very welcoming and the herbaceous borders do wonders at attracting a variety of bees, butterflies and other insects. Birds sing in the surrounding trees and someone has kept track of birds seen from the garden, seen in the garden and birds that maintain territory in the garden. While the primary focus of community gardens are often vegetables, this one also provides a lot of flowers, art and benches. It reminded me of the post about Urban Bees and the community garden in San Luis Obispo that modified plots to include more pollinator plants. It proves that landscapes can be not only multifunctional, but that by adding habitat, it improves the site as a whole as well.

The last site I happened upon could be best described as a random act of habitat. It’s located in a vacant lot in the middle of a city block, just off a busy commercial street. Behind the chain linked fence grows an impressive wildflower meadow out of the gravel and weeds. My guess is that somebody, whether it was the property owner, city or a guerrilla gardener, scattered a wild seed mix throughout the lot. However it came to pass it’s attracting a lot more than bees, it’s caught the attention of the neighborhood too. More than one person who passed on the sidewalk as I took photos stopped to speculate on the flowers or just comment on the beauty of it.

There’s also now a Flickr page for The Metropolitan Field Guide, you can visit it via any of these slideshows, or on the right hand side of this page under ‘Follow The Metropolitan Field Guide’.

Further Reading::

P-Patch Community Gardens:: City of Seattle

The Metropolitan Field Guide on Flickr

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.


  • Georgia says:

    Kelly, you have such inspired observations. I am always of reminded of something or some things, like our nature-made profiles! We have one of Bradner Gardens Park in Seattle ( You’ve also inspired me to (finally!) write a profile about the butterfly habitat traffic circle in our old neighborhood in Berkeley and the habitat garden off an off ramp in San Francisco.

  • Kelly says:

    Thank you for the nice comment Georgia! Thanks for sharing your link of the Bradner Gardens Park, another thing I was unaware of that you’ve brought to my attention in Seattle, I will go visit and check it out soon. I greatly look forward to your posts and I’m really glad I inspired you!

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