In 1855, the English botanist Richard Deacon had published his Flora of the Colosseum, recording the 420 species of plant growing in the site that had been, until the construction of the Crystal Palace in London four years earlier, the largest architectural volume in the world. The six acres of flora included species so rare in Western Europe that their seeds must originally have been carried there, Deacon conjectured, by the animals imported from Asia and Africa for the city’s games and spectacles. These precious plants, he writes, ‘form a link in the memory, and teach us hopeful and soothing lessons, amid the sadness of bygone ages: and cold indeed must be the heart that does not respond to their silent appeal; for though without speech, they tell us of the regenerating power which animates the dust of mouldering greatness.’ By 1870, the vegetation had all been stripped away, and a few years later the floor of the Colosseum was dug out to reveal the cellars and sewers. The area flooded, and the center of the Colosseum remained a lake for five years.”

— Brian Dillon, Fragments From a History Of Ruin, Cabinet Magazine, Issue 20

Flora of the Colosseum of Rome, or, Illustrations and Descriptions of Four Hundred and Twenty Plants Growing Spontaneously upon the Ruins of the Colosseum of Rome
Richard Deakin (1809–1873)
London: Groombridge, 1873

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