The Next Epoch Seed Library exists as a fluid, crowd-sourced collection of seeds and as a series of physical installations. We have a semi-permanent branch at the NATURE Lab in North Troy, New York, where we host open hours from 4-6 pm on select Tuesdays and by appointment. A pop up library is also on view this spring as part of Perennials at Montgomery College in Tacoma Park, Maryland.

NESL at Index Art Center in New Jersey for Landholdings, curated by Colleen Gutwein, Spring 2017
NESL had a large scale library installation on view at William Paterson University from March 21-May 13th 2016. It included seeds for the taking, plant propagation, a seed sorting and processing station, as well as books, research materials, video and photographs related to seed saving practices.
NESL had a large scale library installation on view at William Paterson University from March 21-May 13th. It included seeds for the taking, plant propagation, a seed sorting and processing station, as well as books, research materials, video and photographs related to seed saving practices.
NESL is on exhibition at Intersecting Imaginaries. Pick up and contribute seeds during open hours through December 13, 2015.
In November-December 2015 NESL was on exhibition at Intersecting Imaginaries in the Bronx.
In December 2015, NESL's collection of Hunter's Point Seeds was on view at Chance Ecologies at Radiator Gallery.
In December 2015, NESL’s collection of Hunter’s Point Seeds was on view at Chance Ecologies at Radiator Gallery.

The Next Epoch Seed Library (NESL) re-imagines the conventional seed bank for a new epoch defined by massive human impact on the global environment. Rather than focusing exclusively on human utility or agricultural heritage, we champion the contributions of weedy plant species most likely to survive and thrive in an unpredictable future. You can support our work by becoming a member.

NESL had a full scale library installation on view at William Paterson University from March 21-May 13th, 2016. It included seeds for the taking, plant propagation, a seed sorting and processing station, as well and books, research, video and photographs related to seed saving practices.
NESL had a large scale library installation on view at William Paterson University from March 21-May 13th. It included seeds for the taking, plant propagation, a seed sorting and processing station, as well as books, research materials, video and photographs related to seed saving practices.

Contact

info@nextepochseedlibrary.com
nextepochseedlibrary.com
1911 Albemarle Rd, 4K
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Stocked with seeds gathered from the vacant lots, street verges, superfund sites and abandoned infrastructure, the seed library provides a gene pool of tough, highly adaptable plants well-suited to live in close quarters with humans and their attendant landscape transformations.

Offering services like soil stabilization, moisture retention, heat island reversal, toxic bio-accumulation and medicinal and nutritional attributes, these plants are the ideal pioneer species, prepared to heal the wounds inflicted by a changing climate unsustainable resource extraction. Spontaneous urban plant communities will form the base of new, novel ecosystems as we move through the bottleneck of the sixth mass extinction. Dedicated to overcoming plant-blindness in contemporary urban life, NESL believes that reciprocal networks of plants and people can provide a solid foundation for building ecologically just communities.

Read more: It’s seed collecting season!

Thank you for your interest in contributing to the Next Epoch Seed Library! NESL is an artist run project that encourages public participation. We think seed gathering is an enjoyable activity that encourages contact between humans and the plant species that form the basis of our urban ecosystems. Please read the guidelines below and get in touch with any questions. We’d be happy to list you on our website as a contributing member of NESL.

Anne Percoco collecting and conversing in the median of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx
Anne Percoco collecting and conversing in the median of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx

Seed Collecting/Saving Guidelines

NESL is primarily interested in plant species that live in close association with humans, but that have not been planted or maintained purposefully; in short, weeds! Growing where others can’t or won’t, the plants held in our seed bank are those best adapted to live in the long shadow we throw on the landscape. They are companion plants for the Anthropocene age.

  1. Where to collect: We are especially interested in those wild urban plants that have faced substantial challenges or harsh conditions, like plants growing on superfund sites or brown fields, out of the side of buildings or cracks in the sidewalk, or from other former or current sites of human infrastructure or activity. Any vacant lot, abandoned street tree pit, or untended park edge is also a great place to look.
  2. What to collect: If you’re new to plant identification, choose a few plant species to start with that you find particularly interesting or intriguing. If you’re not sure where the seed is, just collect the whole seed-producing portion of the plant (the tuft at the top of a grass, the dried base that remains when a flower withers).
  3. Date, location, and photos: For each species you collect, note the date and location, as well as a description of the site. Whether or not you can identify the plant, take several photos, and send them to us over email or with your submission:
    • Close up of the leaves
    • Flowers or berries
    • Whole plant
    • Section of the plant against a white background if possible
  4. When to collect: Different species create mature, fully-developed seeds throughout the spring, summer and fall. Look for pods, fruits, flowers that have died back, grasses that have dried and yellowed. In general, a mature seed turns brown or black, and seeds can be shaken off or easily removed. If a seed is difficult to remove, it probably is not ready.
  5. How to store: Just make sure you store whatever you collect in a breathable container (standard mailing envelopes work great!). If you won’t submit it to us right away, it can be a good idea to lay the plant material out flat so it can dry thoroughly, then store it somewhere relatively cool: away from heaters, or ideally in a sheltered area outdoors.
  6. How to submit: Send us your materials through the mail (address above) or in person by appointment.
Seeds should be stored in a breathable container
Seeds should be stored in a breathable container

Some basic reminders

  • Look for “spontaneous plants” in urban areas that are not cultivated by people.
  • Collect mature seeds (ripe fruit, dried grasses, seeds that have hardened and turned black/brown).
  • Allow collected seeds/plant material to air dry for a few days, then store in breathable containers like paper envelopes.
  • Note the date and location for each species gathered.
  • Photograph habitat and plant from which seeds were gathered, including one photo of a segment of the plant against a white background where possible (a piece of paper is fine).

Thank you!

Ellie Irons collecting seeds at Hunters Point
Ellie Irons collecting seeds at Hunters Point

Above: Documentary short by Candace Thompson

Above: NESL: Habitats, Collecting, Processing, 2016 (self-produced video with contributions from Milcah Bassel, 1067 PacificPeople, Owen Levelle, Dan Phiffer)

The Next Epoch Seed Library is in the process of developing curricular resources aimed at a range of learners who want to find ways to engage more deeply with plants and urban ecology.

We’re starting with a series of experiential exercises involving movement, language, and storytelling, which you can download below (Activities 1-3). Look for more resources coming soon, including guides to working with seeds and plants in the classroom. All materials are licensed Non-Commercial/Attribution/ShareAlike, which means you are free to alter, reproduce and share them as long as you provide credit to us as the original source and make them freely accessible yourself. Comments or feedback? Get in touch!

Activity 1: Plant Migration Exercise

Activity 2: Plants, Identity, Memory: A Language Exercise

Activity 3: Rooting Exercise

Activity 4: Deep Time Seed Futures – Time Capsules (view photos)

Documentation from the experimental workshop “Problem Plants: Loaded Language for Talking about Weeds”, at the Cabin Collective Residency, Spring 2017.
Documentation from “Seed Structure and Mobility: A Sensorial Walk in the Woods”, including an iteration of the Plant Mobility Exercise facilitated by Anne, at Cabin Collective Residency, Spring 2017.