In low evening light a haze of green shows between the paving stones.  This is the Cour Carrée of the Palais du Louvre, at first glance a totally arid (though historically fascinating) landscape. The ancient stone pavers are bedded in a coarse, gritty sand with glistening fragments of quartz.  Some of the stones are cut flat but many have a gently domed surface, shedding rain water quickly into the surrounding sand.  It’s a harsh habitat for plant life but a surprising range of different species have put down roots here.

(Click on any picture for a larger image).

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Dandelions and artemesia grow as flat rosettes, resistant to trampling; there’s no sign of flowers on either.  Tiny, dwarf plants of imortelle are covered in fluffy seed heads; they’ve had a good year for flowers despite their miniature size.  Succulent purslane carries fleshy leaves on sprawling red stems, pressed close to the ground.  Fine grass stems, mosses and liverworts give a delicate green coat to some of the sandy joints.  The variety of different species suggests a habitat that’s more varied than it might at first appear.

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The history of the buildings surrounding the courtyard and the art collection they house is well documented.  Ancestors of these plants may have been sprouting among the stones through all the upheavals of building and rebuilding, royal pageant and revolution but no one will ever know.  These plants keep their heads down and go (mostly) unnoticed.