Metro’s Flora by Matt


Ed. Note: The following was written by a guest poster – Matt. Have you also noticed any flora growing in the metro system?

I was standing just a few feet from the elevator on the platform of the Woodley Park Metro this morning doing my usual thing: looking to see which of the incredibly attractive women pouring in for a lift to work were looking at me so I could beat myself up for not going over and striking up as charming of a conversation as I know how. As fun as that is, there was a break in the arrivals and I happened to look across the tracks from my perch on the platform and notice water pouring out of the wall. It was a pretty steady stream. I wasn’t in danger of having to swim to safety anytime soon, but the water coming out could have topped off a nice bath in 10 or 15 minutes, though I doubt it would be warm. There was also a small amount of smoke coming up from where the water was pouring into the thin grate that lines the far wall of the track bed. I imagine it was just the water hitting the lighting below. No big deal.

What did really get my attention were the plants growing all along that wall. I realized just then that I see them everyday and that, in the back of my head, they are a little feeling of something good (life, hope, lottery wins) in the gray dungeon of the Metro. I am pretty sure that they are Maidenhair Ferns, which are really nice plants. I bought a few of those for my place not long ago and completely blew it when they all shriveled and died despite my best efforts. You can imagine my surprise when I really started to think about all this and wonder how they are lush, growing at the bottom of a Metro stop when my thumbs did nothing for them topside.Continues after the jump.

Of course, all of my personal angst means nothing if some commenter lets me know that they are not, in fact, Maidenhair Ferns. That’s likely to happen, but not the point. Don’t plants not need sun to grow? I know plants like more or less depending upon the type, but there is not a drop of sunshine down there. Soil? Unless years of dead rats and the odd organic dropping of Metro patrons have decomposed into a beefy soil, and I think that is unlikely, I am stumped. Warmth and CO2 are another two other key ingredients plants need to grow. I buy that they are amply present. Water is clearly not an issue (see above), but I always thought it was an all or nothing scenario for a plant–sun, water, CO2, temperature, soil.

Either way, I love those plants. Wait for it…they are the colorful flower growing out of the crack at the end of a movie filmed with a blue filtered lense set in oppressive Communist China of my Metro ride. In similarly visual imagery: I can only hope that, one fine morning, as I stare at the ferns and wait for the next train to shuttle me to another day in the next thirty years of my punch in, punch out workaday life that I look up to see one of those beautiful women in a bright red coat bursting against the washed out walls of the Metro and that she hands me something symbolic…whatever, really. Then I will know that she and I will be part of the new order, hand in hand bringing life and color to the lives of the people and places of this city.

Until then, enjoy the ferns.

13 Comment

  • I have, saw some at Van Ness station the other day when I was on my way to the dentist. It’s kind of wild, no?

  • The mole people apparently have greener thumbs than Matt here…


  • These are great – really remind me of the buildings in the Pacific Northwest where concrete and timbers are integrated with a rocky and plant-filled landscape. Evergreen State College and the REI flagship store are great examples. I already like the Metro’s interior and these plants add a great organic touch. they also made me wonder if there’s some cavern down in the Metro system full of hydroponic dope.

  • The garden of weeds that are growing out of the gutters around the top of the Georgia ave/Petworth station are kind of pretty, but I’d rather have a well-maintained Metro than one that looks like a marsh.

  • such growth has been at that station and others for at least the 25 years ive been riding. sure beats a river of evil ooze

  • Matt you are very eloquent and I hope that you will talk to one of those women some time soon because I’m sure you will knock their socks off. I’ve never been so compelled to keep reading about something as seemingly gross as growths in the metro system. Also — I’ve seen that weird leaking metro thing in several stations. But never with foliage. Nice!

  • Sounds like further evidence that POP needs to host a singles night, or maybe a section for personal ads in the forum section? I’m always checking out guys on the metro platform (Columbia Heights) but I’m not the type to be able to start witty conversations with complete strangers either.

  • I’m with Matt–where do they get the light from? Are they actually moss or lichen or something and not plants?

  • Water (present), light (of which there is apparently enough, from the Metro lighting) and CO2 (present) are all that is necessary, as long as any required nutrients are present in the water.

  • I recently noticed some at the Tenleytown station and similarly admired them. The florescent lighting is like office-growing plants.

  • The Post had an article about these ferns a few years ago.

    The Metro’s species of maidenhair fern is not catalogued in Maryland or the District, and in Virginia it is known to exist only in Wythe County far to the west. It is listed as endangered in North Carolina and threatened in Kentucky, yet it is thriving in the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station.

  • The fern’s seeds were probably transported in on some Metro workers boots… or maybe I’ve been watching too much csi.

  • Matt- What a great conversation starter: “Hey, did you ever notice that there are FERNS growing over there? Isn’t that wild?”

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