Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Cherry laurel

Peterborough 0781.  My brother in the 1950s was a collector of moths and butterflies, which he pinned down and kept in a display case.  He used to collect laurel leaves from a local hedge, crush them and put them in the bottom of a screw-top jar.  Then he would put his dead moth in there and it would relax the muscles so he was able to pin it in the desired position.  I remember it had a bitter almond kind of smell, and I worried about it poisoning me [Yatton, Somerset, November 2016].

2.  We used to have the fruit [of cherry laurel] stewed with apple, when we were in Chard [Ilminster, Somerset, May 2015].

3.  [North Hampshire, c.1940s] Laurel leaves were good for magic writing. Gather dying yellow ones, write a message with a stick or some pointed tool, warm it (under the vest or tucked in a knicker leg), after a few minutes the words would show up [Orpington, Kent, February 2007].

0114. After living in town and city until I was 25 (now 70+), I married a Devon farmer in 1939 and went to live up the Exe Valley, four miles from Tiverton, 10 from Exeter, Bickleigh … My mother-in-law lived with us and she had never been out of the West Country … For flavouring milk pudding or old fashioned blancmange a laurel leaf was dipped into the milk; it gave an almond flavour [Tilehurst, Berkshire, February 1987].

Images: main, Hyde Park, London, February 2014; upper inset, wreath of cherry laurel leaves, placed on Holocaust Memorial Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, 29 January 2016; lower inset, Axminster, Devon, August 2015.