Two new neighbours, thanks to Richard Mabey’s book on weeds which has reminded me how we don’t know these plants because, through some cultural trick of the mind, calling a plant a ‘weed’ means we often don’t even see it. These two plants are growing on the pavement outside the flat and one of them at least is rather pretty. I don’t think the one on the right – Conyza canadensis, or Canadian Fleabane is ever going to win a prize for its looks, but the other, Erigeron karvinskianus – Mexican Fleabane is very pretty. We’ve been here almost 4 years now an in that time it’s extended its precarious life in pavement cracks almost the whole length of the street.
There’s a direct parallel with the human population in our ward. On a short walk into the centre of town it wouldn’t be unusual to pass people of half a dozen nationalities from right around the world. Among our visitors here, Chinese and Japanese are almost as common as the French and Spanish speakers. Some residents have been here for generations, some stay for years and there’s a whole other mixed age group of students and others who are far more ephemeral. Mexican Fleabane and Canadian Fleabane are just two more visitors who came and stayed.
There are others too – this one is Saxifraga tridactylites – the Three Fingered or Rue Leaved Saxifrage that turned up on our fire escape steps in 2018 and promptly disappeared. It was replaced by a fine crop of slime mould the following winter. I had no idea that slime moulds were mobile but this one slowly worked its way down the steps and on to the yard where it too promptly disappeared.
I love it – the constantly changing plants seem to fit the constantly changing population. There are beautiful plants of course, but there are loads of imposters, spivs and generally indestructable plants like Hedge Mustard and Wall Barley. I’m not calling them weeds any more because if we’re going to bring the earth back from the brink we’ve got to start calling these plants by a different name. I’m calling them parishioners because because like it or loathe it we’re sharing both our space and our fate with them. They’ve all got names, parents and a history, just like the drunks and spiceheads who also spend their days immobile outside on the grass.
I hope I shall be Parson Woodforde to all my new parishioners of whatever life-form; speaking of which, the dog belonging to our neighbour Nutter is barking furiously (fruitlessly) at a hot air balloon passing overhead. His owner is sitting in the sun drinking beers – he hasn’t even gone out busking today – which is a great mercy to all our visitors.