Project reflections #1

On our second visit to Neepsend I was much impressed by the change in the seasons. Not only by the marked contrast in the weather – so fiercely hot on our first excursion into this terrain and now so cold and with much sleety rain – but also by the presence of so many faded flower heads of Buddleja. On our last visit these vivid purple blooms were alive with butterflies. Now, with the season for progeneration long over, they hang drooping, spent and rotten.

Buddleja, often misspelled Buddleia but commonly known as the Butterfly Bush, is a genus of flowering plants. The generic name, bestowed by Linnaeus, honours the Reverend Adam Buddle (1662–1715), a botanist and rector from Essex who could never have actually seen a plant of the genus, which originates from the warmer climes of the New World and from Africa and Asia. Adam Buddle was an expert on bryophytes (mosses and other damp dwelling plants), he also wrote a new English flora, unpublished on his death, that sits within the library of the Sloane museum in London.

The most popular cultivated species is Buddleja davidii from central China; it takes its second name from the French naturalist Père Armand David (1826-1900), the Lazarist missionary priest, zoologist and botanist who was the first westerner to record the existence of the giant panda. Buddleja davidii is a great coloniser of dry open ground. It often self-sows on waste ground or old masonry. It is frequently seen on derelict factory sites and, in the aftermath of the Second World War, was often found on urban bomb sites. This earned it the popular nickname of ‘the bombsite plant’ among people of the war-time generation.

It is listed as an invasive species in many areas of the United Kingdom.

Paul Evans, December 4 2011

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