Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Altar lily

2014-11-28 13.45.461. Easter lily, associated with republicans killed or executed in the 1916 Easter Rising, featured on mural commemorating the 1981 Hunger Strikers in the Maze Prison, County Down, on wall in Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin, November 2014.

2.  Arum lilies – this is a Cornish custom – never bring them indoors or plant them in your garden … [brings] fatal results [Truro, Cornwall, October 1996].

3. In hospitals they used to think lilies … the big ones they used to have in wedding bouquets – arum lilies – unlucky, and wouldn’t allow them in the wards. When I worked in a hospital I ignored this twice, but each time, that night … [Lewisham, London, April 1986].

4.  They don’t like arum lilies – Zantedeschia aethiopica – in hospitals.  A friend of mine took some once when she was visiting, and they were taken away and taken straight down to the mortuary [Girton, Cambridge, November 1985],

2014-04-22 16.17.08

5.  In 1947-48 the Reverend George Grove became Vicar of Thorncombe and suggested to me that in order to achieve flowers in nice numbers cheaply for Easter parishioners might like to donate arums (the cost of them) in memory of someone known to them.  This idea has continued ever since, though nowadays the cost of even one bloom can be too much for an individual, so we tend to ask people to give what they can towards flowers.  So the idea idea was certainly connected with death in Mr Grove’s mind, though he would also have said it was a thought of thanksgiving.  After all, in Victorian times arums were used in bridal bouquets, and also as cut flowers in large houses,  This could well have been because they were easy hot- or cool-house flowers before other kinds of lilies were popular.  They also last extremely well in bouquets and wreaths!  There are often very practical reasons are there not?  We used to get about 50 flowers, and we still achieve between 30 and 40 each year [Sadborow, Thorncombe, Dorset, December 1982].

Images:  main, cultivated,  garden of Our Lady of Compassion Church, Upton Park, London Borough of Newham, June 2015; lower inset,  Easter flower decoration, St Mary the Virgin Church, Thorncombe, Dorset,  April 2014.