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January 29, 2013

Oxford ragwort

"Exactly how it arrived in Oxford is unknown, Mabey explains, but it was as likely as not brought back deliberately as part of an 18th-century scientific expedition."

Within a few years the ragwort had escaped from the garden (which is sited opposite Magdalen College) and begun its westward progress along Oxford's ancient walls. Its downy seeds seemed to find an analogue of the volcanic rocks of its original home in the cracked stonework. It leap-frogged from Merton College to Corpus Christi and the august parapets of Christ Church, then wound its way through the narrow alleys of St. Aldate's. It got to Folly Bridge over the Isis, and then to the site of the old workhouse in Jericho, where, as if recognizing that this was a place of poverty, threw up a strange diminutive variant, a type with flower heads half the normal size (var. parviflorus). Sometime in the 1830s it arrived at Oxford Railway Station, the portal to a nationwide, interlinked network of Etna-like stone chips and clinker. Once it was on the railway companies' permanent ways there was no holding it.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at January 29, 2013 08:44 AM