Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

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Oak Apple Day, Northampton, 2023

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Oak Apple Day, 29 May 2023, was celebrated at All  Saints church, Northampton, with a Service of Thanksgiving for the Restoration at 11.30, followed by ‘the wreathing of the statue’ of King Charles II on the church’s facade by the Mayor of Northampton.  Two attempts were needed to get the rather flimsy oak (Quercus) wreath in place around the monarch’s neck.  The wreath soon descended to his waist, and by 4.30 in the afternoon had fallen to the ground.

According to information in the History of Northampton Galleries of the town’s Museum and Art Gallery, after the Restoration Charles II  took steps to prevent Northampton, which had supported the Parliamentarians, from engaging in future insurrections by ordering the destruction of its castle and walls. Later, after a disastrous fire – ‘dismal conflagration’ – in September 1675, he provided 1,000 tons of timber for the rebuilding of All Saints church.


Arbor Day, Aston on Clun

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Aston on Clun, Shropshire, holds an event known as Arbor Day on the last Sunday in May each year, in 2023, 28 May.

A black poplar, Populus nigra, growing at the centre of the small village has flags hug from it.  In 2023 these included three coronation flags. The flags remain in place until they are replaced the following year.  In 2023 a number of small home-made birds and beasts were also attached to the tree.

The ‘official’ history of the event includes the Celtic goddess, Brigit, later christianised as St Bridget or St Bride; Oak Apple Day, 29 May, which commemorates the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and the marriage of John Marston and Mary Carter on 29 May 1786.  However, John Box, in his ‘Dressing the Arbor Tree’, in Folklore 114 (2003), was unable to find any mention of the Arbor (then known as Arbour) tree before 1898, and no record of the tree being dressed before 1912.  It seems that until the 1950s the flags were simply replaced each year ‘without much ceremony’.  Later it became an ‘event’ with local school children re-enacting the marriage of John and Mary Marston, morris dancers, and a fete.

However, by 2023 the ceremony had become truncated, and consisted on a couple of songs accompanied by hurdy-gurdy and pipe-and-tabor, a talk on the history of the Tree, and a blessing, followed by a rather sedate fete on the village green, and refreshments in the village hall, where a local ukele group performed.  Flags which had formerly attached to the tree in previous years were available ‘for a small donation’.

REMINDER: Upcoming events, 3 & 4 June

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Three upcoming events, on 3 and 4 June 2023:

Saturday 3, 10 a.m., Wonderful Weeds, Bandstand Beds, Clapham Common, London Borough of Lambeth.

Saturday 3,  2.30 p.m., Fantastic Plants – Cemetery Plants, their Uses and Folklore, Brompton Cemetery, London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

Sunday 4, 12.30 p.m., Plant Walk, Streatham Cemetery, Garratt Lane, London Borough of Wandsworth.

For further information see the Events page on this website.

International Day of UN Peacekeepers, 2023

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Although the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers is usually marked on 29 May, in 2023 the event took place at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London, on 25 May.

The Day was first promoted in 2003, and 2023 marked the 75th anniversary of the Peacekeepers’ formation.

After an introductory speech and prayers by an Orthodox priest, representatives of many nations placed wreaths at the the base of the Cenotaph.  Most of these were identical, consisting of shallon also known as salal (Gaultheria shallon) leaves on a base of cypress, and three roses.  In addition to wreaths commemorating service-people who had lost their lives while serving as United Nations Peacekeepers (100 in the last year), two wreaths were laid in memory of individuals: Count Bernadotte and Commandant René de Labarrière.  Folke Bernadotte was a Swedish diplomat who was assasinated while working on the United Nations’ first peace mission during 1948 Arab-Israeli War.  de Labarrière was a French army officer who is considered to be the first United Nations soldier to be killed in action, in Palestine, on 9 July 1948.

Final prayers were said by a Sikh priest, before the participants paraded off north towards Trafalgar Square.

National emblems

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Reverse of King Charles III 50p coin, depicting plants used as national emblems: rose for England, shamrock for Ulster, leek for Wales and thistle for Scotland.

REMINDER: Uses & Folklore of our Wild Flowers

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Uses & Folklore of our Wild Flowers, a walk led by Roy Vickery on Wandsworth Common, on Tuesday 23 May, starting at 10.30 a.m., for further details see the Events page of this website.

Report:  Eight people gathered at Wandsworth station for what we hope was an enjoyable 90 minute wander around the nearby part of the Common, discussing plants, starting with cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and finishing with elder (Sambucus nigra) two plants which have frequently featured on this website.

REMINDER: Event on 22 May

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On Monday 22 May 2023 Roy Vickery will be leading a Learning about our local Flora walk in St Mary’s Cemetery (also known as Battersea Rise Cemetery), London, SW11, starting at 11 a.m. and continuing for c.90 minutes; booking unnecessary. For details see the Events page on this website.

Report:  c. 30 people assembled for this walk, and, we hoped, enjoyed about 90 minutes wandering around part of the site and enjoying some of the plants there.  Two of the Cemetery’s ‘special’ plants, star of Persia (Allium cristophii) and grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia) were not yet in flower, but we were able to examine a wide range of wild flowers, including six species of cranesbill (Geranium).

‘His talk was invaluable and I wish it was filmed, but I took lots of notes.’

Image:  hybrid bluebell, Hyacinthoides massartiana (cross between native bluebell, H. non-scripta, and Spanish bluebell, H. hispanica), St Mary’s Cemetery, London Borough of Wandsworth, May 2023.

Lave net fishing and may blossom

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

We are grateful to Martin Vickery, the compiler’s nephew, for the following.

Lave net fishermen catch salmon in estuaries, particularly the Severn in Wales and England.

The ‘may flower’ referred to is flowering hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, often called may blossom.

Image:  flowering hawthorn, Moor Park, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, May 2023.

Coronation wreath

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Wreath made of entirely artificial flowers, attached to front door in Bellevue Road, Balham, London Borough of Wandsworth, photographed on 7 May 2023, the day following the coronation of King Charles III.  No other similar wreaths were seen in London.

REMINDER: Wild Flower walk, 11 May

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On Thursday 11 May 2023 Roy Vickery will be leading the third, and last, of a series of wild flower walk, starting from the Woodfield Pavilion, off Abbotswood Road, Streatham, London Borough of Lambeth, starting at 11 a.m. and continuing for about an hour.  All welcome.

Report:  Rather disappointingly despite good weather only two people turned up for this walk, but we able to walk around the perimeter of the site and discuss the plants growing there, including cuckoo-flower or lady’s smock, Cardamine pratensis, which was flowering but not as abundantly as in some other years, the subspecies of Italian lords-and-ladies which does not have variegated leaves, Arum italicum ssp. neglectum, and the common lords-and-ladies, A. maculatum.  We also found and examined three oak apples, galls formed by the gall-wasp, Biorhiza pallida.

Future walks will be on Thursdays 15 June, 13 July and 10 August.

Image:  Roy Vickery, Clapham Common, London Borough of LambethApril 2023, © Carlos Bruzon.

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