Green legacy of WWI carnage: the riches of Verdun forest
Verdun (France) (AFP) -The little blue flowers that have grown for a century now in France near the graves of the war dead at Douaumont can easily be mistaken for local forget-me-nots.
In fact they are a foreign import, an American flower brought as seeds on the hooves of the US army horses used at Verdun during World War I.
"They call it the blue-eyed grass from Montana," says Patrice Hirbec of the National Forests Office (ONF).
Sisyrinchium montanum, best known simply as American blue-eyed grass, is part of a rich legacy left by the carnage of World War I in France's Forest of Verdun: a unique mix of flora and fauna.
The Battle of Verdun was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war.
Launched in February 1916, it lasted 300 days, killing in this region alone more than 300,000 soldiers and making Verdun synonymous with the wanton slaughter that characterised that war.
Jean-Paul Amat, geography professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris, says the fighting caused so much upheaval that the soil went through the equivalent of 10,000 years of natural erosion.
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