Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

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Cornflowers and Nazis

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to the Daily Telegraph of 12 January 2019, André Poggenburg is leaving the nationalist Alternative for Germany party to start a new party called German Patriots Awakening.  The symbol of this party is the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), which was ‘once a secret symbol of the banned Nazi party in Austria in the thirties.’

Apparently senior members of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party frequently wore cornflowers until 2017 when they joined the coalition government.

Image: cultivated, South Queensferry, West Lothian, August 2017.

English mandrake, 1768

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

The use of white bryony (Bryonia dioica) as a substitute for mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) has been discussed elsewhere on this website.  Since that was written the following account has been found in the eighth (1768) edition of Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary:

‘The roots is this plant have been formerly, by impostors, brought into a human shape, and carried about the country, and shewn for Mandrakes to the common people, who were easily imposed upon by their credulity, ammd these got good livings thereby.  The method which these people practised, was to find a young thriving Briony plant, then they opened the earth all round the plant, being careful not to disturb the lower fibres; and (being prepared with such a mould, as is used by the people who make plaster figures) they fixed the mould close to the root, fastening it with wire, to keep it in its proper situation; then they filled the earth about the root, leaving it to grow to the shape of the mould, which is effected in one summer; so that if this be done in March, by September it will have the shape.’

Commemorating David Bowie – 3

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |


Flowers left at the mural depicting the musician David Bowie in Stansfield Road, Brixton, London Borough of Lambeth, on 10 January 2019, the third anniversary of his death.



AFC Wimbledon and onions

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Sticker spotted near Waterloo station, London Borough of Lambeth, October 2018.

It seems as if the association of AFC [Association Football Club] Wimbledon with onions (Allium cepa) refers to the southwest London club’s ground being so small that onions being cooked on burger stalls outside can be smelt inside.

But other explanations and comments would be appreciated.

Flowers commemorating stab victim

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |


Flowers attached to, and placed under, a plane tree at the corner of Duckett’s Common, near Turnpike Lane underground station, London Borough of Haringey, near the spot where 35-year-old Edmond Jonuzi was fatally stabbed on 9 June 2018.

Photographed 9 January 2019.



Christmas trees fed to goats

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to a report in the Metro of 7 January 2019, a city farm in Kentish Town, London, is appealing for discarded Christmas trees to feed to its goats: ‘last year 60 trees fed seven goats … until April’.  Apparently goats love eating pine-needles, ‘which are also natural de-wormers’.

Image:  discarded Christmas tree, Bedford Hill, Balham, London Borough of Wandsworth, 7 January 2019.

Christmas grave decorations – 2

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Christmas flowers on grave of Samuel Smith, 7 November 1936 – 17 March 2009, in the London Road Cemetery, Mitcham, London Borough of Merton.

Photographed 3 January 2019.


Plant-lore Archive: December 2018

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

December 2018 was a comparatively quiet month.  Only seven items of information from five contributors were received, so the Archive now contains 7869 items of information from 2341 informants.

Use of the website continued to fall with only 4924 searches being made during the month, but the associated Facebook page, Plant lore and Traditions, was reactivated.

Visits were paid to Glastonbury, for the cutting of the Holy Thorn ceremony, and Hastings, for the International Spronkers Competition.

Work on Vickery’s Folk Flora concentrated on the selection of colour plates.  One minor publication was produced:

Ubiquitous groundsel, The Bedside Edition (Wandsworth Society), 2018: 54.

Image: plaque listing winners of the Annual International Spronkers Competition, The Jenny Lind, Hastings, East Sussex, December 2018.

REMINDER: Talk on 5 January 2019

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Folklore & Uses of Native Plants, a talk by Roy Vickery to the Leigh-on-Sea Horticultural Society, Essex,  on Saturday 5 January, 2.00 for 2.30 p.m.  For details see the Events page on this website.

Report:  About 45 people turned up to a talk which focussed on the folklore and uses of  seven common plants:  ash (Fraxinus excelsior), bramble (Rubus fruticosus), burdock (Arctium spp.), elder (Sambucus nigra), groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), ivy (Hedera helix) and nettle (Urtica dioica).  During the following discussion people recalled, amongst other things, collecting rose (Rosa canina) hips for making rosehip syrup, and using nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) to prevent cramp.


Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On Boxing Day (26 December)  2018 the 10th Annual International Spronker Competition was held at the Jenny Lind pub in Hastings, East Sussex.  The event is organised as a fund-raiser for the Hastings Borough Bonfire Society, which holds a massive bonfire on the beach in October each year.

Spronkers is a form of conkers in which brussel sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera) are used in place of horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) seeds.  The rules are difficult to understand, but it appears that  the aim is to hit an opponent’s sprout rather than necessarily destroy it.  Although the event was advertised as starting at 2 p.m., play did not actually commence until about 2.20, and continued for rather more than two hours.  The winner was presented with a stem of sprouts, and will have his name added to a wooden plaque on the wall of the Jenny Lind.

Competitors of all ages competed against each other, and all seemed to have raucous supporters who vigorously cheered whenever they scored a hit.  Although advertised as ‘international’, the names of the players seemed to be English ones, and it seemed as if most of them were local people.

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