Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

White heather, 2017

Posted on by royvickery |

The idea that white heather (a white form of Calluna vulgaris, or Erica spp. & cvs) is lucky is believed to have started, or at least been popularised by, Queen Victoria who mentioned it in her books Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands (1868) and More Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands (1884).  For over a century white heather was considered to be lucky and therefore frequently included in wedding flowers.  Gypsies tried to sell ‘lucky white heather’, often offering a variety of sea lavender (Limonium) rather than the real thing.

Early in the twentieth century numerous postcards incorporating ‘white heather for luck’ were produced.  In 1993 it was possible to buy packaged ‘Genuine Scottish White Heather believed by Scots from time immemorial to bring good luck to the holder’ in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

In recent years lucky white heather appears to be forgotten, and on a visit to Edinburgh from 7 to 11 August 2017 no white heather in any form was seen on sale anywhere.  It was only spotted in two places.  An elderly volunteer in the National Trust for Scotland’s Georgian House wore a small brooch depicting white heather, which, she said, she had bought a long time ago, and in St Cuthbert’s churchyard a memorial to Janet Fergusson Bisset (1908-71) and Ronald Gordon Mackintosh (1908-86) had plastic white heather attached to it.

Addendum:  Spent a while on the afternoon of 17 September 2017 visiting gift shops in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, but observed nothing relating to white heather.

Updated 18 September 2017.

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