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Columbia Road Flower Market, December 2019

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Visited the Columbia Road Flower Market, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, on Sunday 15 December 2019, arriving at about 1.45 p.m. on a bright and sunny afternoon.

As usual Christmas trees were on sale, also a wide range of other ‘Christmassy’ plants.  Winterberry, also known as ilex, (Ilex verticillata) was very evident, as was pussy willow (Salix), but cotton (Gossypium) bols, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus) and poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) seemed to be less popular, while red peppers seemed to be unavailable.

There was little mistletoe (Viscum album) on sale, and most of what was available was a rather sorry-looking yellowish colour.  Despite holly (Ilex aquifolium) producing an exceptionally large number of berries this year, only one stall was selling berried holly, though several offered holly wreaths, made of either of plain berry-less twigs, or berry-less twigs with few artificial berries wired on.

An innovation seemed to be plain wreaths of various conifers, which presumably the buyers later decorated at home, and small branches of conifers and other evergreens.  Also noticeable was the new sellers’ cry ‘Card or cash today’.

Tree dressing in Walthamstow

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On Saturday 7 December 2019 trees in Lime [Tilia europaea] Tree Walk, near Walthamstow Central station, in London, were dressed late in the afternoon.  The event organised to draw the public’s attention to the fact that an avenue of ’81 healthy and mostly mature trees’, are threatened due to redevelopment.

Although not a traditional event here, it was  promoted as part of National Tree Dressing Week, which was initiated by the environmental group Common Ground in 1990, and initially enjoyed some popularity, although it has received little attention in recent years.  Passers-by were invited to take red ribbons, some with red hearts attached, to show their love for the trees.  These people seemed to agree that the trees should be saved, but unfortunately there were not many people around in the immediate area.

QUERY: Thistles in churchyards

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

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.

Any comments or observations would be appreciated; please send them to

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.

Plant-lore Archive: November 2019

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Nine items of information were received from eight contributors during the month, bringing the total to 8092 from 2489 contributors.

We remain unable to obtain statistics on the use of the website.

On the 19 November the publishers reported that 1851 copies of Vickery’s Folk Flora had been sold.  This was extremely disappointing as on 15 July they had reported the sale of 2313 copies.  Apparently the discrepancy is due to the July number being the number ordered by booksellers, whereas the November figure was the number of books that had actually been sold.  Never-the-less it is intended to produce a paperback edition in 2020.

Image:  artificial embroidered peppers (Capsicum annuum) hanging near the front entrance to a now defunct Chinese restaurant in Salisbury, Wiltshire, November 2019; are they purely decorative or do they have some symbolic or ritual function?

Edited 5 December 2019.

Plants of Remembrance – 9. Shamrock

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Lapel badge, consisting of a red poppy placed on a shamrock leaf, to commemorate the Ulstermen, and presumably any other Irish combatants, who died during the First World War.

Found in Westminster, 10 November 2019.

REMINDER: Woodland Walk, 24 November

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Roy Vickery’s final walk of the year will take place on Sunday 24 November –  a Woodland Walk starting from East Finchley station at 2 p.m. and finishing at Highgate station (both on the Northern Line).  All welcome; collection in aid of Barnet Green Party.

Report:  About eight people turned up for the final walk of the year.  In fact we never got beyond the first green area, Cherry Tree Wood, so we did a circular route, finishing back at our starting point.  Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) trees formed the most obvious part of the vegetation, but we also discussed yew (Taxus baccata), elder (Sambucus nigra) and a variety of other plants.  Participants recalled seeing whistles being made from white deadnettle (Lamium album) in Co. Limerick, a sister making jam, which no one would eat, from yew arils, eating nettles (Urtica dioica) as a spring vegetable in Ireland, using conkers (Aesculus hippocastanum seeds) to deter clothes moths, and making wine from leaves of oak (Quercus sp.)  and walnut (Juglans regia); the latter  is said to be particularly good.

Plants of Remembrance: 8. Red & white flowers

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Wreath of fresh red and white flowers placed on the memorial to the 55,573 airmen from the United Kingdom, British Commonwealth and allied nations who died while serving in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command during the Second World War.

Placed on honour of the men of No.300 Polish Bomber Squadron, the wreath consists of flowers in the colour of the Polish flag.

Hyde Park Corner, London, 13 November 2019.

Plants of Remembrance – 7. Cornflower

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Wreath of artificial cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) placed on the monument to Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929),  in Buckingham Palace Road, London.  The French general Foch who served as Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War.

Like poppies (Papaver rhoeas), cornflowers thrived on land devastated during the First World War, and as early as 1916 tissue-paper cornflowers were being produced and sold to raise money to supplement the income of injured service men.  From 1935 the French goverment has officially supported the sale of cornflowers – bluets – for Remembrance Day.

Photograph taken 13 November 2019.

Plants of Remembrance – 6. White chrysanthemum

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Cross marking the War Widows’ Association of Great Britain plot in the Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey, London.

Founded in 1971 the Association is primarily concerned with improving the lives of war widows and their dependents.  On the day before Remembrance Sunday they lay a wreath of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) signifying the remembrance, red poppies and white chrysanthemums (Dendranthema cv.) on the Cenotaph in Whitehall.  The white chrysanthemum was chosen for the Association’s emblem because it was easily available in November.

Photographed 10 November 2019.

Plants of Remembrance – 5. African marigold

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Wreath on the Indian plot of the Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey, London, composed of red poppies interspersed with artificial African marigolds (Tagetes erecta).

Despite its name African marigold is native to Mexico, having been introduced to Europe via north Africa in the 1530s.  It is not known when it reached India, and little seems to be known about its use in Indian wreaths and garlands, despite it often being a conspicuous component of such decorations.  The Sun of  3 November 2003 showed a photograph of the Prince of Wales wearing two dozen African marigold garlands, presented to him by villagers while on a visit to India.  Before a helicopter took him to the next village ‘aides phoned a request no garlands’.

Photographed 10 November 2019.

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