Adaptive urban jungles Inaugural lecture Barbara Gravendeel

June 8th, 2022
Barbara Gravendeel

She was already a professor by special appointment since 2019, but after some pandemic-related delay, Prof. dr. Barbara Gravendeel will finally deliver her inaugural address today at the Radboud University in Nijmegen.

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in the city

Barbara Gravendeel studies the evolution of plants and fights against “plant blindness”: the inability to appreciate or even recognize plants. It is common among ordinary people, but even biologists have it, as shown by Gravendeel's patient tallying of the biology press.


Which is weird, because they’re everywhere, even in cities, and they have so many beautiful stories to tell. “Many urban plants and animals can adapt at a speed that Darwin could not dream of”, she states in her inaugural lecture. It’s also quite relevant because over half of all humans live in cities.

and cooler

In her research, she finds differences between species that live inside or outside the city. Or she’s helping discover the problem of encroaching exotics such as glassworts that easily cause hay fever. Read more

Ultimately, these types of insights should lead to greener cities that are better able to withstand the cooling effect of the plants in a manageable climate. “We must use nature as a partner, instead of approaching it as an enemy”, says Gravendeel. That also includes those standards of how the public should look, should be revised. “The end goal is to have the urban plants slowly but surely change into climate adaptive urban jungles.”


  • Gravendeels personal profile pages at Naturalis and Radboud University.
  • More about the urban greening project Benign, where Gravendeel works together with colleagues from both Nijmegen and Leiden.