August 13, 2011

After the riots

It's been a terrible week in London, and in other British cities, too. Lives have been lost, homes destroyed, businesses ransacked and historic buildings burned to the ground.

London will pick itself up, though, as it always does. Already, funds have been set up to help traders whose shops were looted and citizens, mobilised using social networks, have come together to clean up their local areas.

Nature, too, moves quickly to heal the scars left by the worst of our behaviour. After the Blitz, rosebay willowherb, or 'fireweed', became the first plant to colonise the bomb sites. In fact, fire helps its dormant seeds to germinate, while the young plants thrive on ash.

As the Blitz wore on, rosebay willowherb wreathed the mourning city in purple, and it remains today the county flower of London.