New ‘phytology’ garden opens on old wartime bombsite at Bethnal Green nature reserve

New 'phytology' garden on old East End wartime bombsite

New 'phytology' garden on old East End wartime bombsite - Credit: Archant

A new phytology garden is being opened to the public on a former wartime bombsite in London’s East End which was once occupied by a medieval nursery and market gardens.

Today the small patch of Bethnal Green Nature Reserve on the Teesdale housing estate has become a selective mix of natural laboratory and part pharmacy exploring medicinal properties of wild plants and weeds common to derelict urban environments.

Some 32 species of plants usually regarded as weeds have been sown, such as Black Mustard, Nettle, Feverwort, Garlic, Marsh Mallow and Sweet Woodruff, all selected for their continued use in phytotherapy and traditional medicine.

“We want to encourage visitors to learn how to safely identify, harvest and utilise the plants for medicinal and nutritional purposes,” explained Janette Scott from the Phytotherapy project.

“This scheme would have been familiar to readers of the Old English Herbarium that was translated from a 5th century Latin text around 1000 AD.”

The Phytology project at the nature reserve in Middleton Street, off Old Bethnal Green Road, opens on May 17 with a series of talks about urban wildness, harvestable medicine, alternative urban planning and biodiversity in the modern metropolis.


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‘Phytology’ is a rarely-used 17th century word meaning botany.

The old Second World War bombsite was taken over in the 1990s by the Teesdale & Hollybush Tenants and Residents Association. It was the site of St Jude’s Church, which was destroyed in the 1940 Blitz, though remains can still be seen among the new trees and plants.

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