Let’s Get Ruderal!

I opened an old copy of A Dictionary of Biology at random last night before bed and rediscovered the word ‘ruderal’: Plant living in waste places near habitations.

I suddenly remembered all the ruderal plants growing on an unused stretch of platform at Lowestoft train station several summers ago. The St Johns Wort was particularly striking, though buddleia, yarrow, mugwort and (of course) ribwort plantain also burst through the cracks.

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That year in late Summer the whole platform was cleared of the plants and they have not been permitted to return. Which is a shame because the whole place was brighter, better and more cheerful for their ruderal presence. It’s not for nothing that St Johns Wort is an anti-depressant.

Image2013-719 SJW Oil enhMy friend Rose, who is extraordinarily green-fingered, recently gave me a bottle of the superb St Johns Wort oil she made from the plants in her garden this year. Charlotte always keeps St Johns Wort oil in the kitchen in case of cooking burns and swears by it. It’s also great for sunburn.

So some of those flowers in the top picture, infused in virgin olive oil over a few weeks and placed in a sunny window, would have given you something like an oil this colour.

Though I probably would not have wanted to disturb or pick the platform flowers that summer. Just left them to do their crackbursting, ruderal thing. And return the next year.

Images: St Johns Wort and Other Ruderal Plants, Lowestoft Station, July 2010; Rose’s St Johns Wort oil, October 2013 (both by Mark Watson)

Text and images by Mark Watson. Creative Commons with Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives license. A Dictionary of Biology by Abercrombie. Hickman and Johnson.


2 responses to this post.

  1. all together, all together, let’s do the ruderal thing


  2. Hey thanks Will, your comment inspired a much snappier title!


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