A Bombsite Flora
Photography and text
In 1943 the botanist E.J. Salisbury published an article on ‘The Flora of Bombed Areas’ In the scientific journal Nature. In this he reported on the spontaneous development of vegetation on sites in London that had been bombed. War transformed London’s urban ecology and increased its biodiversity, so much so that Fitter found as many as 126 plant species growing on bombed sites where they had not previously been found. Looking into these species – how they came to settle where they did and what conditions permitted them to thrive – it is possible to read them as an index to the material, political, and social networks which were produced by and produced the violence of war.
In Spring 2020 I began to collect and photograph samples of Salibury’s species which could be found in the course of my day-to-day activities within a limited area of his original study. Is it possible that these plants now growing in the contemporary landscape are relic occurrences; the progeny of those specimens which preceded them and grew only as a result of the conditions of war? Whether we take these plants literally or symbolically to be the descendents of those that thrived in the bombsites, what sort of knowledge and what questions does an encounter with them produce?
Photographs of the collected plants are being gathered together in production of a ‘flora’ – meaning a treatise on or list of the plants of an area or period. Arranged along with extracts from botanical, historical and critical texts this flora explores how the contemporary landscape and its wider networks remain contiguous with a violent landscape that is only seemingly past.