Plant-Lore

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Labour’s red rose – 2

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

As noted elsewhere on this website, the  red rose has been the symbol of Britain’s Labour Party since 1986.  Despite the Conservative government appearing incompetent and divided, the official opposition party – Labour – seems equally divided and equally chaotic, and unable to capitalise on their opponent’s weakness.

The placard shown here was carried on the so-called People’s March for a Second Vote (a second referendum on whether or not the United Kingdom should leave the European Union)* on 23 March 2019.  According to its carrier, what the country needs is a real, effective opposition.

*Despite its name the supporters of the march were entirely remainers, people who want stay in the EU; leavers – ‘Breixiteers’ – insist that the result of the first, 2016, referendum, in which they obtained a small majority, must be respected.

REVIEW: Scottish Plant Lore

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Gregory J. Kenicer, Scottish Plant Lore: An illustrated flora, Edinburgh: Royal Botanic Garden, 2018.

It’s difficult to categorize this attractive book:  is it a coffee-table book, a reference book,  or a gift book?  Perhaps all three, it is certainly one which can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in plants, botanical illustration, and Scottish traditional culture.

According to the foreword, by the Garden’s Regius Keeper:  ‘In this book, we celebrate the plants that have shaped human lives in the place we now call Scotland … We do this primarily through one of the most engaging and inspiring mediums available to use:  botanical illustrations’.  Thus a major feature of the book is a selection of illustrations prepared by the Edinburgh Society of Botanical Artists.  These illustrations are excellent; less attractive are the illustrations which have not been prepared by the Society.

The  the well-written text according to the back-cover, draws ‘together traditional knowledge from archives and oral histories’.  In fact it relies mainly on well-known sources, including Mary Beith’s Healing Threads (2004), Sam Bridgewater & William Milliken’s Flora Celtica (also 2004), and a number of older sources such as John Lightfoot’s Flora Scotica (1777).  An additional source which most other writers have failed to use is Robert Sibbald’s Provision for the Poor in Time of Dearth and Scarcity (1699).  A minor mystery is the information said to be taken from Vickery’s Dictionary of Plant-Lore, for example:  ‘A humorous phrase recorded in Roy Vickery’s A Dictionary of Plant Lore (1997) suggests that an untrustworthy character “never lees (lies) but when the holyn’s [holly, Ilex aquifolium] green”.’  In fact this cannot be found in the Dictionary, but when Bridgewater and Milliken were preparing their Flora Celtica, Vickery supplied them with material from his Plant-lore Archive, and it seems that Kenicer used this typescript, rather than the published work.

Entries are arranged according to habitats, such as ‘Woodlands’.  This can be confusing as different people associate different species with different habitats.  Occasionally species, such as docks (Rumex spp.),  are lumped together, possibly giving rise to some confusion, and, I think, it’s unlikely that most people would think of docks as ‘wetlands’ species.

However, Scottish Plant Lore provides an interesting and enjoyable introduction to its subject, and can be recommended.

Druids’ Spring Equinox celebrations

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

As they have done for many years in the past, Druids gathered to form a circle at Tower Hill, London, on 20 March 2019, to celebrate the Spring Equinox.  About 40 white-robed Druids assembled just before noon for a ceremony which lasted for about 50 minutes.  Two middle-aged women with garlands of florists’ flowers on their heads, one carrying a basket of flowers and the other a wooden bowl of seeds, accompanied a younger woman who wore a gold-coloured cloak over her gown.  At one stage during the ceremony the bowl of seeds were passed over to a male Druid who walked around the inside of the circle scattering the seeds of flax (Linum usitatissimum) pumpkin (Cucurbita sp.), and sunflower (Helianthus annuus) on the ground.  Presumably none of the three seeds used had any particular symbolic meaning.  As the ceremony took place on the sterile paved Tower Hill Terrace there was no chance of any of them germinating.  According to TimeOut London of March 19-25, 2019, the sowing is ‘meant to represent the sowing of new ideas or plans for the year ahead’.  A senior Druid then slowly read a short talk, and the company processed back to the cafe in nearby All Hallows by the Tower church.

Vickery’s Folk Flora update

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

A copy of Vickery’s Folk Flora was delivered yesterday. Although it initially looks satisfactory, the publishers made a late decision, without consulting the author, to delete the index of plant-names.  This decision is greatly regretted as it severely restricts the publication’s usefulness.  The index included all the names, standard English, local, and scientific/Latin, mentioned in the text, where entries are arranged alphabetically according the plant’s standard English name.

As things are,  readers from outside Britain and Ireland, who know a plant’s scientific name, but don’t know its standard name, are left floundering.  The only way from them to find, for example, Campanula rotundifolia, is to work through the book until they eventually  reach the entry ‘HAREBELL (Campanula rotundifolia)’.  Readers who want to know what a local name means are in an even more difficult situation; if, for example, they wonder what ‘zenry’ was, they have no alternative but reading through the lists of local names listed under different species, and hope that they remain sufficiently alert to notice it listed as a Cornish name for charlock (Sinapis arvensis).

As the decision to delete the index was taken at the last moment, mention of it still appears in the book’s introductory matter; on p.xiii, it is said to occupy pp. 809-91.

A great deal of time was spent compiling the deleted index, and the Flora itself is the outcome of over 40 years spent collecting and studying plant folklore.  It is sad that the result is so unsatisfactory.

Note added 22 March 2019:  On being asked if the above was factually correct the publisher replied:  ‘I don’t think sadly I can argue with what you said about the publisher’s (my) mistake’.  There are promises that the index will be reinstated in future editions.

St Patrick demonstrates the Trinity

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On St Patrick’s Day (17 March) Irish people wear shamrock (usually lesser trefoil, Trifolium dubium), which the Saint is said to have used to demonstrate the nature of the Holy Trinity.

This is shown in the image here, part of an 1881 stained glass window in Gloucester Cathedral, in memory of General Sir Joseph Chackwell, who died on 8 April 1859.

Photographed September 2017.

Observation at the London St Patrick’s Day Parade, 17 March 2019:  Apart from a few people, including the Mayor of London, walking at the front of the parade, very few of the other people in the parade and the people watching wore live shamrock, though shamrock motifs were common on hats and other clothing.

Paper from Japanese knotweed

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

The most recent issue of the Royal Horticultural Society’s journal The Plantsman (n.s. 18(1): 65, March 2019) contains a letter from a Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, correspondent who reports that Ljubljana Botanical Garden, in Slovenia, is using fibre from Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) to make paper seed-packets.  Japanese knotweed, which is invasive in Slovenia, ‘growing in profusion along riverbanks’, can be used to make a ‘surprisingly fine paper’.

Remembering George Washington

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Wreath, composed mainly of red and white carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus), placed at the base of a statue of George Washington (1732-99), first President of the United States, outside the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London.

Photographed 6 March 2019.

St David’s Day wreath

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Wreath composed of artificial daffodils (Narcissus), a symbol of Wales, and artificial poppies (Papaver), placed at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London, on St David’s Day, 1 March 2019:

‘President and members of the London Branch Royal Welch Fusiliers Association.   In remembrance.’

Plant-lore Archive: February 2019

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Vickery’s Folk Flora was eventually sent to the printers towards the end of the month.
13 items of information from 10 contributors were added to the Archive, which now contains 7903 items from 2362 contributors.
Use of the website continued to fall, with 6106 searches being made (compared with 6283 searches in February 2018, and 6285 in January 2019).

REMINDER: Knowing our Weeds

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Roy Vickery will be leading a session Knowing our Weeds at the Streatham Common Community Garden, London Borough of Lambeth, on Sunday 3 March, starting at 2 p.m. All welcome; for further details see the Events page on this website.

Report:  About 12 people turned up on a damp blustery afternoon and spent about an hour discussing some of the weeds found in the Garden, and their uses.  It was explained that most plants which we categorise as weeds are archaeophytes, having been introduced, usually accidentally, before 1500.  These plants, together with other ‘common or garden’ plants were the ones which people usually used for medicinal purposes, but when medicine was commercialised they were neglected; it was easier to charge for medicines made from exotic ingredients than ones made from, say, old cabbage leaves.  After about 45 minutes outside the weather deteriorated, so we continued our discussion indoors.  Participants seemed to agree that they’d had an interesting afternoon.

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