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Beta Orionis
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25 + 37 points

Cress by Beta Orionis, Dr. Subtle

May 29th, 2012 8:16 PM

INSTRUCTIONS: Cress seeds will sprout if planted in carpeting.

We had a very strange winter/spring transition here in Pittsburgh. It never really snowed very much and started warming up intermittently. This means we'd have weeks of 70+ ºF, sunny weather, bookended by short-term snowfalls. On one such week, we decided to plant some cress seeds.

In preparation, we selected two varieties of cress, Curled and Upland, which produce purple and yellow flowers, respectively.

Then we ordered ONE MILLION seeds!

Left over seeds, ~1/3 of original volumeThese are the leftovers and represent ~1/3 of the original volume.

We already had a target in mind prior to purchasing the seeds: one of Carnegie Mellon University's pristine lawn spaces. Here we would plant the seeds in the form of a phrase, that would stealthily infiltrate the space, suddenly appearing as differently toned greenery, and later as a burst of yellow and purple flowers. We chose the phrase "IS IT OURS?" which we felt was inoffensive enough to escape immediate removal if successfully legible, but significantly challenging and thought-provoking. Whose greenspace is it? It's not even made of local greenery!

So we set about mapping out the phrase, plotting key points in the letters to guide us in execution in an attempt to make them big enough so that the phrase would be legible from the top floor of a nearby building that overlooks the space.

Mapping out the phrase.

But as I mentioned earlier, it had been intermittently snowy. The week we planned to execute our plan it snowed. Not too heavily, just ~2 inches, but enough that it put straight, slow planting right out of the question. Instead, we decided to take advantage of the snow! Our phrase could be immediately visible and disappear shortly after production, only to reappear later! So one evening that week, Dr. Subtle and I shuffled out our phrase in the snow, acting as visual markers and directing one another as necessary. The letters measured 10' in height, and the phrase about 55' in length. We kicked and dug deeply into the snow, exposing the warm soil as we moved. After crafting the phrase, I rewalked all the letters and tossing out the seeds before me, working them into the ground gently as I went. Afterwards, we made our way up to the appropriate overlook to survey our work.

In context

A closer look

It wasn't as clear as we had hoped, but it was certainly there for anyone to read and question! As of now, the flowers have not appeared, nor have the seedlings in great abundance/density. We can't tell if this is due to them having been planted in the snow (although the temperatures returned to ~80ºF a day or two later) or because of Carnegie Mellon's diligent landscaping efforts. 

We like to think they're still there, nestled in the soil, biding their time.


- smaller

Left over seeds

Left over seeds

We purchased ~1 Million seeds, 2 pounds, but these are the leftovers and represent approximately 1/3rd of the original volume.

Seeds, closer

Seeds, closer

So seedy! Each variety is its own color. I believe upland cress produces the darker seeds

Phrase layout

Phrase layout

mapping out proportions and key points.

The idea

The idea

this is a mock-up of how we hoped it might turn out after we decided to deal with the snow.

The reality

The reality

less legible than we had projected, but still there!



9 vote(s)


(none yet)

8 comment(s)

Super cress! +1
posted by Sam Archer on May 29th, 2012 9:34 PM

5 points for vandalizing a lawn. With seeds.

(no subject)
posted by relet 裁判長 on May 29th, 2012 10:56 PM

What *does* it look like today?

(no subject)
posted by Beta Orionis on May 30th, 2012 6:09 AM

Not much. The letters have not reformed, and every time I inspect the area, I don't think I see any significant growth, but I also didn't sprout the seedlings elsewhere for reference so I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for. The school is now in summer session, and the overlooking building does not host summer classes, so all those rooms are locked, but I should investigate other ways of obtaining a current photo!

(no subject)
posted by relet 裁判長 on May 30th, 2012 8:26 AM

Thank you. Now that I think of it, I have never seen cress in the wild. I wonder what conditions it actually needs.

(no subject) +1
posted by Lincøln on May 30th, 2012 8:57 AM

Good going. You'll get more points when I see some cress leaves.

(no subject)
posted by Sombrero Guy on May 30th, 2012 9:55 AM

Same here!
I like this idea, and that was a lot of cress seeds!

(no subject)
posted by Beta Orionis on May 30th, 2012 1:03 PM

Completely reasonable! I'm also considering re-planting the remainder, now that it is consistently warm/sunny/humid.

(no subject)
posted by Pixie on May 30th, 2012 10:15 PM

I'm all kinds of impressed!
You may have all of my points!