Flora of the Colosseum

2018 – 2020
Textual installation, dendrochronological tree sample and morse coded lamp

Flora of the Colosseum is a project that revives the lost vegetation of the 18th century Colosseum in Rome. Starting point is the eponymous publication by botanist Richard Deakin from 1855 which categorizes 420 species of flora that grew in the Colosseum in his time, among which a number of rare species. On the most important trade route of the Romans, the Via Appia, pelgrims from all over the world brought seeds from their local vegetation at home to spread it at the destination of their pelgrimage, the Colosseum. The flora became a vegetative representation of a cultural-religious phenomenon. While the vegetation of the Colosseum had to disappear for the increasing amounts of tourists, the Amstelpark, designed for the Floriade, was in its own way a vegetative representation of the zeitgeist of what was possible in the field of horticulture at its time.

For the exhibition ‘Exploded View’ in the Amstelpark in Amsterdam, the lost flora of the Colosseum is restored by making them visible in an installation that occurs in two locations. In the Roman Garden in the Amstelpark the names of the plants are communicated in morse code through a lamp that blinks only at night for their own species, when human visitors have left the park. At het Glazen Huis the plant names are shown in a long paper scroll hanging from the ceiling, made visible to save it from oblivion. The plants appear as ghostly apparitions in a botanical garden, which as an international exhibition for horticulture reminds of histories that took place in another time and space.


Engineer: Nathan Maquet
Advise electrical system: Daniël Wiermans

Commissioned by Alice Smits, Zone2Source, for ‘Exploded View’
Thanks to Joris Burla and Marcel Kersten

Eline Kersten