Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


I do recall one piece of lore first mentioned to me by an aunt on the Island of Soay (Skye) but later traced to the local story-teller, one John MacRae, whose nephew, a retired windjammer sailor and fisherman, passed on to me many of the local tales John had told him (circa) 1840s.
Anyway this item referred to a little heath flower that grew among the peat heather of Soay … The saying went that where the flower grew was where St Moalrudha touched the ground with his staff. I suppose this was meant to signify the extent of St Moalrudha’s travels which were, indeed, very wide.
Prof. Charlesworth [1889-1972] … once told me that when he was young in Antrim the flower was known as St Patrick’s spit, or St Patrick’s staff, attached to which was the story that while crossing a wide bog St Patrick lost his staff and unable to find a tree he came upon one of these small plants whose stem had grown so long and strong that he was able to use it as a staff. The flower on the head (which is shaped with a curve like a staff) never faded and afterwards wherever the staff touched the ground the flower sprang up [Salisbury, Wiltshire, November 1985].

Image: Easedale, Cumbria; July 2015.