Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


2014-12-23 10.40.261. [Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, 1960] we had a ewe going blind and I made a mixture of crushed ivy leaves and water and sprayed her eyes [e-mail, August 2020].

2.  When I was a child and young teenager in west Dorset in the late 1950s and early 60s, we would make flowers – if I remember correctly called ‘roses’ – by wrapping stretched crepe paper around ivy berries.  You would take a strip of crepe paper, usually red or pink, about 2 inches wide and 18 inches long, stretch it along one edge so that it curled back, and then wrap and tie it, stretched side at the top, around the berries.  Some years we made hundreds of these to decorate the village hall, at Holditch, for its Christmas party [Tooting, London, December 2014].

3.  Ivy: As children we used the berries in peashooters made from hollow stems or broken biros. We knew they were very poisonous [Childwall, Liverpool, April 2013].

4. [Ireland] I’ve used ivy to get rid of corns. You tied it on and when you took it off you could dig out the corn [Brompton Cemetery, London, June 2010].

5. We never had ivy in the house – it was said to bring illness [Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, August 2004].

6. During the 1920s I remember a woman collecting ivy to make an infusion for her husband’s corns, in southeast London [Natural History Museum, London, July 2002].

7. I remember (1937?) my mother using an ivy poultice on a badly suppurating wound – it succeeded [Mordiford, Herefordshire, May 1993].

2014-09-29 10.24.548. Ivy was offered to cattle to tempt their appetite [Addington Moorside, West Yorkshire, April 1993].

9. Ivy (Hedera helix) when boiled in water makes a great cleanser for blue serge [Cong, Co. Mayo, January 1992].

10. Then on wash day we had to pull a big bunch of coarse ivy leaves. Chop them up and stew until soft. Keep the juice and put in an old container. Discard the leaves. With an old clothes brush take your husband’s serge suit and proceed to brush in the liquid, especially the lapel and neck and cuffs. Then take a clean cloth and iron it all over. It’s like new. A lot cheaper than dry cleaning, you’ll agree [Castlerock, Co. Derry, February 1989].

11. My 73-year-old mother from Rothes in Morayshire reports the following plants as strictly forbidden in the house …
Ivy – very dangerous [Stanton-on-the-Wolds, Nottinghamshire, January 1983].

Images: main, Faversham, Kent, July 2014;  upper inset, ivy ‘rose’ as made in west Dorset; lower inset, Lichfield, Staffordshire, September 2014,