Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Goat willow

1.  According to my mum, from Staffordshire, it’s pussy willow that you should never bring into the house for fear of bad luck [e-mail, January 2018].

2.   ‘Pussy willows’ is what we called the fluffy bits of willow in Aberdeen.  My sister and I kept these fluffy bits as ‘pets’ in matchboxes throughout the 1980s [Walthamstow, London, October 2015].

3.  Using ‘sally rods’ to beat bold children!  Sally is willow, and the flexible shoots/branches were used as canes/whips to discipline children in days not too long past [National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin, Dublin, August 2014].

4.  In the Durham coalfields the most important spring flower was pussy willow, or in other words the flower of the sallow and its relatives. These were known as Palm and brought into the house on Palm Sunday, and were as important to Easter as holly [Ilex aquifolium] is to Christmas. No Easter could be complete without it [Appleshaw, Hampshire, January 2014].

2014-03-24 12.25.225. I was born and brought up in Surrey and from 1958 to 1964 attended Grayswood Church of England Primary School. Sallow, which we referred to as pussy willow, was collected and taken into the house and church for Palm Sunday. This was, I believe, a common custom locally and I was surprised when I saw palm leaf crosses used in other churches [Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, September 2013].

6. According to my mother, Mrs Anne Wilks (b. 1918), of Whitstable, Kent:
On Palm Sunday children used to walk in procession carrying ‘Palm’, that is pussy willow in flower [Upminster, Essex, April 2011].

7. My mother-in-law would not allow pussy willow into the house until after Easter. I don’t know the reason for this, and she didn’t seem to know either! [Kirkby-in-Furness, Cumbria, February 1998].

8. I went to infant school and junior school – 1935 to 42 – in Birstall, just north of Leicester … On Palm Sunday (last before Easter Sunday) we tended to place pussy willows in the house. In Crewe they used to make crosses with them, or bunches to take to church [Mosedale, Cumbria, January 1994].

9. [During] my childhood in the Macclesfield area of Cheshire in the 1940s … we usually referred to the great sallow or pussy willow as ‘palm’ and on Palm Sunday our Methodist chapel always had a bunch of it on the Communion Table [Skipton, North Yorkshire, November 1991].

10. About 70 years ago in Hampshire it was thought unlucky to bring palm – flowering willow – indoors before Palm Sunday [Great Bookham, Surrey, October 1979].

Images: main, male flowers, Regents Park, London Borough of Camden, February 2014 [tree flowering exceptionally early]; upper inset, female flowers, Braunton, north Devon, March 2014; lower inset, postcard posted Ely, 27 March 1913.