Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

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REMINDER: Plant walk, 25 February

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On Sunday 25 February we shall explore Graveney Woods, part of Tooting Common, London Borough of Wandsworth, looking at the trees and other plants growing there.  Met at the junction of Furzedown, Thrale and Ullathorne Roads, at 2.30 p.m.  Although it will probably be muddy underfoot the walk will be adapted to make it accessible to as many as possible.  All welcome (voluntary collection in aid of local Green Party funds).

Dandelion stems as bicycle tyre valves

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

P-LA contains two records of the flower-stems of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) being used for bicycle tyre valves during the Second World War.  Therefore it is interesting to find in Wild Flower Magazine no. 275, 1945: 67, a ‘cutting [possibly from a Liverpool newspaper] about a new use for dandelions:                                “A story I heard yesterday of a cyclist’s ingenuity is worth passing on to others who may some day find themselves in the same fix.  The cyclist – a young woman – had the misfortune to get a flat tyre while she was riding in a lonely part of the country.  Investigation showed that the valve rubber had gone completely and she had no spare one.  But she solved the problem by fitting part of the tubular stem of a dandelion in place of the valve rubber, and the makeshift worked perfectly until she got home.”‘

Image: Chertsey, Surrey; February 2018.

Valentine’s Day 2018

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |



Valentine’s Day flowers, with red heart-shaped baloons, on sale at the Putney Exchange, London Borough of Wandsworth, 13 February 2018.





REMINDER: Event 21 February

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

On 21 February Roy Vickery will be leading a day-long (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) workshop for people who lead plant walks and would like to incorporate more folklore when doing these.  The event will take place at the South London Botanical Institute – There are still a small number places left;  advance booking necessary.

Report:  13 people (one more than the planned maximum) enjoyed this event, providing positive feedback, and taking advantage of meeting other people with common interests.

Updated 21 February 2018.

REMINDER: Winter plant walk

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Sunday 11 February, Winter Plant Walk, in Leader’s Gardens, Putney, meet at the Ashlone Road entrance of the Gardens, near Loo Loo’s Café, at 2.30 p.m. for a stroll around the small green space, discussing some of the plants growing there.  All welcome; voluntary collection in aid of local Green Party funds.

Report:   Despite good publicity (thanks Di McCann and Glyn Goodwin), only six people turned up to this walk; possibly people were discouraged by a short-lived sleet shower shortly before it was due to                                                                 start.

We walked around the Gardens examining some of the plants growing there, starting with ivy (Hedera helix) and finishing with birch (Betula sp.).  The plants discussed included both wild and cultivated ones, and among the latter we examined New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), now naturalised on the Isles of Scilly and, more rarely in southwest England.  Joseph Banks, who collected plants on James Cook’s first (1768-71) voyage, noted that Maoris used Phormium as a fibre-plant, and hoped that it might be usefully cultivated for this purpose in Britain, but this never happened, and the plant was forgotten until recent decades when it became popular as a robust ornamental.  However, one of the participants on the walk told us that New Zealand flax used to be grown for fibre on St Helena, where it was processed in mills.  The cultivation has now ceased, and the plant has become a serious pest on the island.  (According to  the British Post Office was a major customer, and the flax industry rapidly declined after it decided in 1965 to use synthetic fibres for its mailbags; ‘the result was considerable unemployment’).

£22.62 was contributed to Green Party funds.  The next walk in this series will be on Tooting Common on  Sunday 25 February (see the Events page on this website for details).

Lower image:  New Zealand flax, planted, Maryon Wilson Park, London Borough of Greenwich, February 2018.

Updated 12 February 2018.

Hoya kerrii – lucky heart plant

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |



Hoya kerrii, lucky heart plant, on sale in Sainsburys, Balham, London Borough of Wandsworth, £4, 31 January 2018.





Plant-lore Archive: January 2018

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

The early part of the month was spent preparing images for the Folk Flora, which were sent to the publishers on 4 January.  Thanks to Carlos Bruzon for his patient help with this.

27 items of information were received from 21 contributors during the month, thus the Archive now contains 7645 items from 2174 contributors.  Thank you everyone.

6003 searches were made of the website during the month, up again from December 2017 and the previous January.  However, it remains disappointing that although many people consult, and possibly use, material on website, very few are willing to contribute to it.  No contributions were received via this means during the month.

Much time was spent editing the database of local plant-names, from which the website’s Local Names page is derived, and which currently holds 13,629 entries.  An article ‘Mother-die: plant-names and folk beliefs’ was submitted for publication in Folklore.

Image:  wreath placed by the Burns Club of London at the base of a statue of Robert Burns (1759-96) in Embankment Gardens, London.  The roses presumably refer to his famous 1794 poem ‘My love is like a red, red rose’, and Eryngium seems to be replacing various Asteraceae as ‘Scottish thistle’; 28 January 2018.

‘Folk Flora’ update, 4

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to Waterstones, who are now taking pre-orders, Vickery’s Folk Flora will be published on 4 April 2019, contain 480 pages, and cost £30.

Woolly decorations on Euston Trees

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

The government’s controversial HS2 project – which will provide a ‘new backbone of the national rail network’ by creating a high-speed route between London and Birmingham, and later Manchester and Leeds.  Objectors claim that the project will destroy communities, 98 ancient woodlands, and many individual trees, including most of those around Euston station in London.  Since May 2017 trees in Euston Square have ‘woolly decorations’ tied around their trunks in the hope that a strong campaign will prevent their destruction.

Image:  Euston Square, London Borough of Camden, 28 January 2018.

Commemorating Gordon of Khartoum

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Wreaths placed at the base of the statue of Major Charles George Gordon (28 January 1833 – 26 January 1885) in the Embankment Gardens, London, 28 January 2018.  Only one wreath bears a card: ‘From the Gordon family’.


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