Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium)

Photograph by Daniel Greenwood

A sunny day in the glade brings out much of Sydenham Hill Wood’s colour. Gatekeeper butterflies appear with the sun’s rays, basking on leaves or fluttering to flowerheads to feed. The ambience of this open section of the wood is defined by the bright purple or pinkish flowers of Rosebay Willowherb, or Chamerion angustifolium.

This is a plant which grows on unsettled ground and can be glimpsed alongside railway lines quite commonly at this time of year. One alternative name,  bombweed comes from the fact that Rosebay Willowherb grew in the wake of London being blitzed by German bombs in the Second World War. It is also called Fireweed due to its predilection for fire-scorched earth.

The flower is successful in the Sydenham Hill Wood glade because of the history of the wood. The old trainline ran through where the flowers and gatekeepers now thrive. After 100 years of disturbance, the flower has come to settle in this now very peaceful and colourful space.

Here is a short and very sweet BBC clip about the plant:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: