Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Indian balsam

1.  Indian balsam – policeman’s helmet, jack-in-the-box – grown as a companion plant with runner beans [Phaseolus vulgaris] prevented blackfly on the beans – the balsam plant [got] covered with the blackfly instead [Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, May 2015].

2.  I picked up the name Kent, or Kentish, orchid [for Himalayan balsam] from someone on a walk in the upper Medway Valley, Kent. But I think this may just be a localisation of poor-man’s orchid, which is widely recorded as a more generic trivial name for Himalayan balsam [e-mail, October 2011].

3. A plant which in the last few years has been racing along the banks of the River Parrett is Indian balsam, which is known as policeman’s helmet, because of the shape of the flower with its yellow topknot on it [Muchelney, Somerset, January 2007].

Images:  main, beside River Ribble, Preston, Lancashire, October 2017; inset, Wandle Park, London Borough of Merton, June 2014.