Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Hedgerow tobacco

Posted on by royvickery |

001Liz Maddicott writes:  ‘I wonder if anyone has ever used rosebay willowherb [Chamerion angustifolium] for a tobacco.  I presume it is the flower or seedheads that are used and that they would be dried before use.  What sort of paper would be used to wrap the tobacco?  My father owned up to smoking such cigarettes when young, but I never asked how he made them.  Sadly he’s not around to ask now.  Can anyone help?’

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Comments:                                                                                                                  1. Calvin Podd, of West Stow, Suffolk, contributed many items to P-LA during the 1990s, including the following:                                                                Myself, my brother and a friend always smoked elder [Sambucus nigra] leaves when money was not available for tailor-made cigarettes.  We spent much time in the woodland of Thetford Chase, where on our regular walks we would break down but not completely snap off, small sprigs of elder.  We found if we severed the supply of sap completely the leaves on the sprig would dry out resulting in a hot strong smoke.  We found that if the leaves remained just slightly damp they were quite a pleasant smoke.  It was obviously trial and error; sometimes they remained too wet to burn properly.  We would stuff the leaves very lightly into the stem of various umbellifers [Apiaceae].  As we were quite young then possibly 10 or 12 we could not identify these stems, which were obviously used in their dry state.  We actually preferred these cigarettes to the tailor-made, but they were not available during the winter.                                                                                        We also at times used the fluffy down from the rosebay willowherb, but this was a very hot and strong smoke [RV, 23 June 2016].

2.  I was born in 1986 and lived on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border.  As children I remember breaking lengths of cow parsley [Anthriscus sylvestris] and then using like a cigarette and smoking it.  The things we do as children! [Chris R, Streatham, London, 12 July 2016].

Image:  Farthing Downs, London Borough of Croydon; August 2015.

Updated 12 July 2016.

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