The Next Epoch Seed Library exists as a fluid, crowd-sourced collection of seeds and as a series of physical installations.

We are currently on view at:

Home/Body, 3 Dots Downtown, State College, PA

Lawn(Re)Disturbance Laboratory at NATURE Lab, 3333 Sixth Ave, in Troy, NY

The Next Epoch Seed Library (NESL) reimagines the conventional seedbank for an era defined by the massive ecological impacts of Capitalism and resource extraction. Rather than focusing on utility or agricultural heritage, we work with adaptable, weedy plants who have co-evolved with dense human populations. These plants are our indispensable companions as we inhabit novel ecosystems and journey through climate chaos together.

Stocked with seeds gathered from vacant lots, street verges, superfund sites and abandoned infrastructure, the seed library engages a gene pool of tough, highly adaptable plants well-suited to live in close quarters with humans and their attendant landscape transformations. Contributing to habitat livability through soil stabilization, moisture retention, heat island reversal, toxic bio-accumulation and medicinal and nutritional attributes, these plants are prepared to heal the wounds inflicted by a changing climate and unsustainable resource extraction.

We believe that reciprocal networks of plants and people can provide a solid foundation for building ecologically just communities. Weedy plants are ubiquitous, accessible, and often overlooked. We work to move plants from the background to the foreground of contemporary urban life by raising awareness of these weedy species and encouraging participants to engage with their local habitats.

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

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 so-called 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

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

Open Access Curriculum for leading your own seed-oriented activities

Videos documenting our process and the plants we work with

Projects that bring the seed library to life through pop-up seed exchanges, walks, seed burial, & other experiments:

The following pages are temporarily offline due to data loss:

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)

Lawn (Re)Disturbance Season 1 from Ellie Irons on Vimeo.

Above: Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory “Making Of” Video

Above: Video by Catie Rafferty and Chris Johnstone, Sanctuary TV

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 started with a series of experiential exercises involving movement, language, and storytelling, which you can download below (Activities 1-3). We are also developing more in depth curriculum series to complement our Deep Time Seed Burial and Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory projects. Completed lesson plans are linked below in their own sections. All materials are licensed Non-Commercial/Attribution/ShareAlike, which means you are free to alter, reproduce and share them as long as you credit us as the original source and make them freely accessible yourself. Comments or feedback? Get in touch! info (at) nextepochseedlibrary (dot) come

Stand Alone Exercises and Activities:

  1. Plant Migration Exercise
  2. Plants, Identity, Memory: A Language Exercise
  3. Rooting Exercise: Indoor Version, Outdoor Version
  4. Seed Dispersal Icebreaker
  5. Equinox Herbarium Collection (originally developed for NATURELab at the Sanctuary for Independent Media)

Deep Time Seed Burial Curriculum Series

  1. Deep Time Seed Futures – Time Capsules (view photos)
  2. Coming soon: Seed Collecting
  3. Coming soon: Fieldwork with iNaturalist

Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory Curriculum Series:

  1. Coming Soon: Choosing a Lawn Lab Site
  2. PVC Pyramid Instructions
  3. Plot Establishment Instructions
  4. Coming Soon: Soil Seedbank Testing
  5. Coming Soon: Fieldwork with iNaturalist (some basic tips here!)
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.
Equinox Herbarium Collection Workshop at NATURELab at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, Troy, NY