Nienke Beets highlights a sidewalk plant every month for the sidewalk plant research

Since January 2021, Nienke has been a PhD candidate at the Hortus Botanicus and the Science Communication & Society (SCS) department of Leiden University. During her PhD, she will first of all use the sidewalk plants citizen science project to investigate which sidewalk plants occur where and why. Sidewalk plants are good for people and nature in the city. By learning more about these plants, she hopes to eventually contribute to making villages and towns greener with wild plants.

Simone Both

Daisies now bloom all year round in towns and villages, while outside they only bloom between April and September. The shelter of our houses keeps it nice and warm.

On my way from the park to my house, I come across some flowering plants at the edge of the sidewalk, such as broom ragwort, odorless chamomile and shepherd’s purse. On the ground around a tree I also see the mock strawberry, but it does not bloom. This plant is in the shade and the leaves still have an edge of frost. Perhaps it is just too cold on this street corner, but the plant will survive.

Plants have a type of antifreeze agent, AFPs, that keep them from freezing. You and I consist of about 57% water, but with a plant it is no less than 98%. When water freezes, it expands; when a plant cell freezes, it explodes. The production of enough AFPs not to freeze costs the plant a lot of energy, which cannot be used for growth.

Mock strawberry in winter.

Nienke Beets

I take another sip of coffee from my thermos. A bit further I come across another mock strawberry; it is in full sun and has no ice on its leaves. Squatting, I look again and discover a flower bud. Due to the warm sunlight, this plant does have energy left to make flowers. In built-up areas, the mock strawberry can bloom all year round, just like the daisy. At least if it’s in a favorable place. After it has flowered, it gets a small red fruit. As the name implies, that is not a real strawberry. You can eat it, but it doesn’t taste like anything.

There are a lot of other plants on this spot that can quickly overgrow the mock strawberry. Competition is everywhere, for plants, animals and people. Which plants grow where in the city and why? Do some plants like to be brushed now and then by the brush trolley or sprinkled with road salt? Do some plants simply do better between the paving stones than in the wild? We don’t know the good thing about it… Not yet! Help me answer these questions and let us know which plants grow on the sidewalk on

The sidewalk plant research

Do you want to discover your own urban or village nature? Learn to recognize sidewalk plants and pass them on via for the Pavement Plants Research Project. With the Stoepplantjes research, PhD student Nienke Beets, together with citizens like you, is mapping out which pavement plants grow where and why. Want to know more? Go to the website, follow the research on social media via @stoepplantjes or sign up for the newsletter.

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