Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Thistles in churchyards

In the Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History & Archaeological Society, vol. 3, p.344 (1943), it was reported that the vicar of Carisbrooke had stated in his parish magazine that ‘there is an old tradition that thistles [Cirsium spp.] are never found in churchyards’.  The editor of the Proceedings suggested that readers might like to check up on local churchyards to see if this was true, but presumably no one did, as there were no further mentions of the matter.

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Comment:  The image shows spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare) in St Leonard’s churchyard, Streatham, London Borough of Lambeth, December 2019.  Members of the South London Botanical Institute have been monitoring plants in the churchyard since 2008, and have found spear thistle to be present every year, and creeping thistle (Cirsium arvensis) to be present every year from 2008 to 2018.  In May 2018, when SLBI members surveyed St Nicholas’s churchyard, Tooting, London Borough of Wandsworth, spear thistle was found to be present.  Thus, based on a very small sample in south London, it appears that thistles are common in churchyards.  RV, 7 December 2019.

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