Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


2014-04-14 18.14.331.  Dandelion seedheads were blown to tell the time, but it was not done to pick a dandelion flower as they were known as pee-the-beds.  In Aberdeen these seeds were known as hairy witches!  If you caught one it was considered to be lucky and you could make a wish [Walthamstow, London, October 2015].

2.  As a primary school child, circa 1971-75, in Hawcoat on the edge of Barrow-in-Furness we would have plant fights on our way to and from school and if someone got dandelion sap on their hands/skin we would say it was ‘wet your bed’ [Walworth, London, October 2014].

3.  Fascinated to read … about dandelions and bed-wetting, as the modern French of course for dandelion is not dent-de-lion as we might think (the derivation of the English form) but pissenlit, piss in bed. I grew up in New Zealand (born 1944) where dandelions are considered the lawn-grower’s enemy. Very surprised to be served them in France in 1973 as a salad. Salade de pissenlits with a good vinaigrette is considered quite a delicacy – seasonal, of course. I loved it but I can understand that children would not like the bitter taste [e-mail, Australia, January 2013].

4. Dandelions were fed to the rabbits, but on the other hand we were told not to pick them because they would make you wet the bed (not true) [Tamworth, Staffordshire, June 2012].

0305. I’m over 70 years old and was born and bred in Inverness-shire. I spent many summers in the company of my grandmother who was very knowledgeable about potions and cures from indigenous plants and flora …
Dandelion leaves were eaten to help arthritis sufferers [Aultvaich, Inverness-shire, April 2012].

6. [b.1932] A French governess introduced me to dandelion salad.
In England I learned about time [being] told by dandelion seeds – blown until all had come off leaving a bare head.
My mother used to talk of dandelion coffee which was drunk during World War I when the real thing was not available [Streatham, London, March 2012].

7. I [now aged 38] still make a wish if I ever catch a fluffy dandelion seed … but that’s just for fun, because I think it’s kindna cute; I don’t expect my wishes to come true [Streatham, London, October 2011].

8. [I’m now in my 60s] Mum wouldn’t let us touch dandelion after 4 p.m., as she said it would make us go to the loo all night, but before 4 p.m. it was alright [Leiston, Suffolk, July 2011].

9. You can use the white sap of dandelion to remove warts [Natural History, Museum, London, March 2011].

10. Once when I was camping and I had warts on my hands I treated them by rubbing dandelion juice on them, more or less continually. It worked [St John’s Wood, London,  June 2009].

11. I spent my childhood in Bradford, Yorkshire … A child who picks dandelions will wet the bed. Generally believed at my infant school in the 1930s. A friend of mine aged 5 or 6 learned it only after he had picked a dandelion, and sure enough experienced the embarassment of wetting the bed, for the first time in his life [London, E1, December 2003].

12. When I was in France in 1952 they used to have dandelion in the school dinners every day – not nice young leaves, but tough dark green ones [Lee, London, June 2003].

13. If you pick dandelions you will wet the bed [Wormshill, Kent, May 2003].

14. Dandelion seedheads always called ‘clocks’ – blow seeds off stem head to tell time, number of blows to clear all = time of day.
Variation of above – ‘He loves me, he loves me not’. 1940s, Kent [Weobley, Herefordshire, August 1998].

01315. I was lucky enough to spend part of my childhood in rural Devonshire … some 60 years ago … A rather eccentric great-aunt was regrettably keen on forcing us to eat sandwiches of dandelion leaf if she thought we looked ‘peaky’. This was a powerful incentive to effect a rapid recovery, so revolting was the bitter taste [Sandon, Hertfordshire, February 1998].

16. When stationed with the R.A.F. at Tain in Scotland during the War, we could build a bicycle from a pile of bits and pieces kept in a large shed. One problem was a shortage of tyre valve tubing. As a stop gap some bright spark discovered that a three-quarters of an inch of dandelion stem would keep us going for a few miles, and the rest of the stem was kept as spare [Southampton, Hampshire, November 1996].

17. When I was a child (I am now 85) … dandelions were called pee-beds. We were told that if we picked a dandelion we would wet our beds, a terrible thought [Leeds, October 1996].

18. Dandelion wine is good for indigestion and kidney troubles [Portland, Dorset, April 1991].

19. When I was a child in Brixton (1950s), we believed that if you picked dandelion flowers you would wet your bed [St Albans, Hertfordshire, November 1979].

Images:  main, The Cemetery, Taunton, Somerset, February 2014; upper inset, Sherborne, Dorset, April 2014;  middle inset, Gillingham, Dorset, April 2015; lower inset, beside the Basingstoke Canal, Woking, Surrey, September 2015.