Penn Facilities and Real Estate Services intern Elena Juodisius took on a pet project this summer to chart out the locations around campus that have plants that humans can eat. This project turned into a complete color-coded map based on the edible parts of the plant and was adopted by Penn.
Her design process included using resources already created by FRES, such as the Penn Plant Explorer, an interactive website that lets students see what plants exist on campus.
Penn landscape architect Bob Lundgren said Juodisius' map is one of FRES' first efforts to help educate students and inform planners on the landscape of the campus, which has grown over the past few years.
“I spent some time working in farming and also with youth,” Juodisius said when explaining her choice of mapping edible plants. “I find that edible plants are really interactive and exciting for people to engage with in their environment.”
Edible plants can be found anywhere from the Quad to Van Pelt library, and they can include plants such as juneberries, hickory trees, and spicebushes.
In addition to her map, Juodisius spent the summer working on inventory and mapping the campus plants and existing green spaces. “Part of what I was noticing is that there’s just some places like patches of lawn in the back of places that we don’t necessarily think about,” Juodisius remarked. “But [these spaces] are opportunities to create more habitats or ecological resources.”
What started as a pet project connects to the work that the University is doing and the steps they are taking towards environmental sustainability and educating the community, FRES landscape planner Chloe Cerwinka said. The new Climate Action Plan 2.0, a second draft of an original 2009 initiative, is the University's set of goals to increase environmental sustainability on campus and be carbon neutral by 2042. One of the goals the University currently seeks to complete is to increase the presence of green spaces—an example is the Penn Park Orchard—and with organizations such as FRES, to improve the campus itself.
Students have raised concerns that building projects such as New College House West will demolish one of the few remaining green spaces on campus.
“We have a huge campus with 6500 trees,” Lundgren said. “We’re trying to make our tree canopy and our landscapes that are more aesthetically-pleasing and more ecologically-responsible.” In addition to the Penn Park Orchard and other campus planning initiatives, the University offers resources meant to engage the students and Penn community with the environment and local plants.
Cole Jadrosich, caretaker for the Orchard, also emphasized the importance of the University’s work.
“We can create these growth spaces and learning environments where people can connect to nature and use it as a therapeutic space,” Jadrosich said.
Now a second-year masters of landscape architecture student at the State University of New York College of Environment Science and Forestry, Juodisius has been excited to see how students at her own school have become more interested in edible plants after showing them her project.
“It’s neat to see the different ways of communicating and sharing excitement.”
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