On most walls there is little conflict between taggers and wildflowers. Are some plants damaged or killed? Yes, but most species living on walls are tough and will either colonise again or regrow.

The likelihood of damage increases as the age of the wall increases.

Old walls often act as refugia for species that have disappeared from the surrounding environment. Species can hang on in these places for decades and sometimes hundreds of years. They include rare ferns, wildflowers and mosses and lichens.

Old walls, Victorian and earlier, tend to be the best. The railway viaduct leading up to Deptford Creek is very early Victorian built in 1838. So an obvious candidate for interesting plants.

Artists/taggers tend to clear vegetation before painting or paint over plants. More rarely they work around them and very rarely incorporate them into the design. The latter is extremely rare, artists ignore other wild species as much as the rest of culture/s.

We know of one group of plants that found refuge the old viaduct and this is wall ferns. Several species that are generally rare elsewhere in the environment grow here.

A single application can kill plants but it is usually repeated applications that kill most – particularly perennials.

Fortunately most wall plants are able to take a lot of abuse and bounce back from the experience. Plants such as Pellitory-of-the-wall, Ivy-leaved Toadflax both characteristic plants of old walls in the area are occasionally killed by graffiti but most bounce back very quickly. The painted Ivy-leaved Toadflax pictured above will probably recover from the experience through new growth.

One of the biggest problems that graffiti causes is that it attracts the cleansers. Usually, these cleansers do more harm to wildlife than the graffiti artists.

The dark green plant painted silver below is Maidenhair Spleenwort. The colony was half covered by graffiti a couple of years ago and was starting to recover when the cleansers came along and painted (buffed) over the graffiti and everything else on the wall.

So it goes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Nick Bertrand

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Conservationist at Creekside Discovery Centre

Deptford X Fringe 2023 >

Tagged under: Wildlife