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Note: This article is from Conservation Magazine, the precursor to Anthropocene Magazine. The full 14-year Conservation Magazine archive is now available here.

The Alien Aesthetic

December 11, 2013

For some, invasive plants are the scourge of the landscape. For others, they are tasty ingredients in creative new cuisine. And for Patterson Clark, they’re a local and abundant source of art supplies. Clark, a Washington, D.C.–based artist and author of a Washington Post urban natural history column, creates pens, inks, brushes, paper, printing blocks—and ultimately complete works of art—from the exotic plants of the D.C. area. As a 2011 National Public Radio story put it, he “turn[s] weeds into art that honors weeds.”

The inks used to make Index 1309a (below) come from Amur honeysuckle, leatherleaf mahonia, multiflora rose, Asiatic bittersweet, and the soot of burned weeds. He printed the piece from a Norway maple block onto paper made from white mulberry fibers. The brushes (above) are made of fibers from the inner bark of porcelainberry and multiflora rose, which are glued into the stems of another invasive plant, Japanese arrow bamboo.

Learn more about Clark’s process and browse his collection of work at


Images courtesy of Patterson Clark

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