Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1.  In 1952 or 1953 a friend used to walk along the canal at Lapworth near Solihull in summer with a neighbour’s daughter to gather meadowsweet to put in the toilets.  The two houses built next to each other had outside toilets built over a stream … The meadowsweet was used to disguise the smell [Lichfield, Staffordshire, January 2015].

Further records of this practice would be much appreciated.

2. Meadowsweet – In Ireland, when my grandmother’s little calves had diarrhoea, she boiled this plant and gave the cool water to the little calves, which cured the diarrhoea. County Armagh, about 1916 [anon., 1998].

3. Eastbourne, Sussex, 1941 (wartime). I was a keen collector of wild flowers at that time and brought back large armfuls of exceptionally fine sprays of queen-of-the-meadow, also known as meadowsweet, I believe. I brought it into the house where my mother and I were staying as guests and met our hostess, a woman of 50 or more (unpleasant, petty-minded … and very superstitious), who promptly told me not to bring it into the house. ‘Why ever not?’ Whereupon the woman nearly became crazy, she was screaming at me in the end. Ghastly bad luck would descend on the house if I did. I thought it was too foolish for words and tried to persist in bringing it in. She was beside herself, and screamed that she would throw my mother and me out of the house if I did. In the end my mother intervened and begged me to leave it outside. I kept one bit secretly to press for my collection and left the rest outside; frightful waste. The silly woman calmed down but talked of it for the rest of the evening [Kensington, London, January 1983].

Images: main, Burwash, East Sussex, July 2015; inset, Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, May 2019.