Privet: A non-native gone wild
During the time that I have spent at the La Reunion property it has always struck me how much the non-native shrubbery called privet has taken over the landscape. This plant, originally from Asia is very aggressive and hardy. It is used widely in the DFW metroplex as a decorative bush around houses and commercial builds. Unfortunately a single privet bush will produce 1000s of berries each year. These berries are often washed into the city’s storm drains which empty into the local creeks and streams. The result is that most of the creek banks and flood zones in the DFW area are now overgrown with privet. Once a privet bush is established, simply cutting it down cannot kill it. The root ball is like a Hydra, it will send up several new braches for each one that is cut off, totally replacing the old growth within a few short months. Privet is pushing out the native plants that native animals, birds and insects feed upon. This is creating vast areas of monocultures that only support other aggressive plants like poison ivy and insects like mosquitoes
Privet: An experiment in repurposing
The branches of privet are very long and thin, but also surprisingly strong. In this way privet resembles plants like the ocotillo, cane and bamboo, all fast growing plants that are widely used as building materials. Based on these natural characteristics, a team of artists will “harvest” privet branches from the La Reunion property and use them to construct a sculpture. This sculpture will be of a design and scale that calls explores the architectural validity of using privet as a building material. Documentation and photos will be taken throughout the project. After 12 months the sculpture will be dismantled, at which time documentation will focus on the condition of the sculpture and the structural stability of the privet.
If this field test proves that privet can be used as stable building material, it could turn the urban privet plague into a valid source for sustainable and green building materials