Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Creeping cinquefoil

0461. I was brought up by my grandparents. There is a plant called cinquefoil, and when I was five – I am now 68 – I had scarlet fever. Every year the runners of the plant were collected in the summer and dried; in the winter when people had high temperatures this was infused with boiling water and we had to drink it – it was awful! But when I had scarlet fever there was no [?high temperature], which in those days was very remarkable … I was brought up in East Ham, London , E6; my grandparents came from Swanscombe in Kent , but we used to take a trip in the summer to Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. There was a path from Leigh to Chalkwell by the sea with the railway running one side and the sea the other. I don’t doubt that it must still be the same now, and it was along there we walked to get the cinquefoil. I doubt after all this time I would recognise it, only that it had runners like buttercups and it was the runners that had to be dried [Liverpool, L18, March 1998; Leigh-on-Sea visited later in the month, creeping cinquefoil still grows there].

2. [Malew, Isle of Man, 1965] A decoction of Potentilla reptans for Manx cats with diarrhoea (they are very prone to this) [Manx Museum, August 1979].

Images: main, Christ Church churchyard, Frome, Somerset, May 2015; inset, Trent Country Park, London Borough of Enfield, August 2015.