The process for creating the test plots is simple. A square is cut and pulled back with a hand rake before the dirt is fluffed and mixed with potting soil to replace the turf. It’s then marked with a yellow pyramid or signage, which protects it from mowing and can draw the attention of citizen scientists, who can add their observations to iNaturalist.

    What emerges can be unpredictable. Irons stopped by the three Wheaton plots over Labor Day weekend, and although they’re no more than 100 yards apart, they were distinctly different.

    “One is totally covered in purslane, plantain, dandelion, spotted spurge, and carpetweed—all low-growing, mat-forming, or rosette-forming species—it’s a green carpet,” she said. “While another one nearby has lots of bare soil, but has five pokeweed plants coming up in it, which grow tall and bushy, and will have deep red berries if they get the chance to go to seed before winter. I didn’t see any pokeweed anywhere nearby, so I really wonder how long those seeds have been hanging out in the soil.”

posted 263 days ago