Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1. [Rochdale, Lancashire] my father told me him and his pals have known bistort as sweaty feet, since he was a lad.  He’s nearly 68.  I’ve found the smell to be only evident when the flower spikes are fully open.  Thoroughly unpleasant [e-mail, July 2016].

2.  [Halifax area] As a child in the 1930s I collected docks for an elderly neighbour – an ingredient for her dock and oatmeal puddings. I never had the courage to taste it as it looked revolting! [Redcar, North Yorkshire, January 2014].

3. Last Monday an 81-year-old, born and bred in Yorkshire, lady was on a botany walk I was leading. I pointed out bistort (Polygonum bistorta) which was still in flower, and she said she knew it as dog stinkers. On being asked the reason, she said it smelled of dog’s urine in the summer months [Fixby, West Yorkshire, October 1997].

0984. My wife … from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, remembers dock pudding being made to eat at Easter (I think this was the time) from greater bistort [Ruislip, Middlesex, February 1997].

5. Here in the Halifax area there is a very active tradition of gathering the young leaves of Polygonum bistorta in spring to make ‘dock’ pudding, mixed with oatmeal, bacon fat and sometimes nettles, all fried together [Halifax, West Yorkshire, September 1996].

6, When I used to work for the Freshwater Biological Association in Cumbria, everyone used to make Easter Ledges – there were various recipes, but they always contain Polygonum bistorta – and eat them during the spring. They were supposed to help clear the blood [Girton, Cambridge, September 1985].

Images:  both, Grasmere, Cumbria, main May 2014; inset May 2015.