‘Crypto’ from Greek meaning hidden or secret, related to ‘cryptic’, of unsure or obscure meaning. A cryptoforest incorporates both: they may be forests that are hidden or it may refer to forests of unsure pedigree, because no other words suffices. Cryptoforests are a feeble category within the psychogeographic classification of landscapes. You do find cryptoforests in the centre but the chance of finding one increases as you move outward and cracks will appear in the urban armour as you move further and further in the perimeter. I invite you to think of the cryptoforest not as a disturbance of urban hegemony, but as the place where the division between city and nature becomes meaningless.


The root meaning of the English word 'forest' is “a large area of land covered with trees and plants”. Etymologically the word is derived from the latin 'forestem silvam' and it has had it's current meaning at least since the 9nth century when the word 'forest' appeared in Old French. Special interest groups may use narrower definitions. Biology proposes that all properly drained lands left to themselves will eventually become forested as the final phase of ecological succession.

Cryptoforests can be described by at least one of the following terms:

1) Feral forests (Planted tree zones, for instance along motorways, that have been allowed to become wild to the point that their wildness has started to overshadow their original function.)

2) In limbo forests (Areas that feel like forests but technically probably aren’t; states of vegetation for which lay-language has no words.)

3) Invisible Forests (Forests that have become cryptic, forests in camouflage, no known examples.)

4) Precognitive forests (Lands that are on the brink of becoming forested, lands in which one can 'see' the forest it will bear.)

5) Unappreciated forests (Forests regarded as zones of waste and weed, forests shaming planners, developers, and the neighbourhood.)

6) Unknown forests (Forests nobody knows about.)

Like the concept of 'weed', the concept of a 'cryptoforest' is not a biological way of relating to nature but a cultural one. It names (urban) landtypes in which nature has been given the space and time to create its own order using the materials (seeds, roots, nutrients, soil conditions) at hand. Cryptoforests are precognitive glances on post-crash non-human landscapes, diagrams projecting wildness and future possibilities, laboratories of dada-do-nothingness, camera obscuras of fear and desire, relay stations of lost ecological and psychological states. Cryptoforests are wild systems grown inside a world that is barren and poor; wild is equated not with chaos but with productiveness at a non-human level of organization. What starts with weeds ends with a cryptoforest, what starts with brazen survivalism, with weedy plants eking out a living against all odds, slowly but determinedly creating the conditions for the emergence of a network of species that is both flexible and stubborn, unique and redundant, lean and resilient. Many animals may live there, humans may eat from it.

In the first use of the word, cryptoforests were taken to mean those fallowed, forested lands that could serve as the seeds and catalysts for full urban reforestation.


  • cryptoforests.txt
  • Last modified: 2013-12-11 15:01
  • by nik