Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

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Shamrock, London 2017

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Shamrock (Trifolium dubium) plants on sale at the New Covent Garden Flower Market, Nine Elms, London,  Thursday 16 March, ready for St Patrick’s Day, Friday 17 March 2017.  At about 6 a.m. only three stalls were seen to be offering shamrock, and each of them had only  a small quantity.


Laver in Cardiff – 2

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Dried laver – ‘no added flavours or preservatives, just pure goodness from the sea’ – on sale at the National Assembly for Wales building, Cardiff, March 2017.







Laver in Cardiff – 1

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The seaweed laver (Porphyra umbilicalis) continues to be sold as laverbread in Cardiff Market.  A fishmonger’s stall offers it at £9.75 a kilo, and laverbread is included in a ‘Welsh breakfast’ available at one of the Market’s cafés.

The fishmonger’s laverbread is probably appreciated by some local people, but is unlikely to appeal only to more adventurous visitors.  For less adventurous people packets of  dried laver are available elsewhere in the city.

Image: 2 March 2017.

St David’s Day, Cardiff, 2017

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Most of the older people in Cardiff wore artificial daffodils (Narcissus cv.) pinned to their lapels on St David’s Day (1 March).  A few wore fresh daffodils – usually one of the smaller-flowered cultivated varieties – and fewer people wore artificial leeks (Allium porrum).  Very few younger people appeared to wear daffodils.

The main St David’s Day event was the Wales National St David’s Day Civic Service, held in the City Parish Church of St John the Baptist, and attended by the city’s Lord Mayor and other dignitaries.  For this the pew ends and rood-screen were decorated with plastic beakers containing daffodils (Narcissus cv).  However, as St David’s Day coincided with Ash Wednesday, the first day in Lent, as soon as the service had ended the daffodils were removed; as a woman who said she had spent four hours decorating the church the previous day explained ‘flowers are not allowed in church during Lent’.

Later in the day, at about lunch-time, an informal, light-hearted parade of possibly 200 people carrying Welsh and St David’s flags and other symbols of the principality processed through the city centre.

Although flowers are banned from the Anglican parish church during Lent, it appears that Roman Catholics are less strict.  When their Metropolitan Cathedral of St David was visited on 2 March, although it was otherwise devoid of flowers its statue of St David had vases of daffodils placed around it.



Plant-lore Archive: February 2017

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No active collecting was attempted during February, consequently very little was added to the Archive, which now contains 7,377 items of information from 1990 contributors.

A draft contribution to The Cultural History of Plants was submitted on schedule, and work continued on A Folk Flora and the editing of the Local Names database, which currently contains 13,526 entries.

6,522 searches were made of the website.

We were saddened to learn of the death of Hilary Belcher, who had been a steadfast supporter of the Archive for many years.  Hilary spent her professional life working on algae at the Freshwater Biological Association before retiring to Girton, Cambridge, where she developed an interest in folklore, regularly contributing notes to the Folklore Society’s FLS News.  With her friend Erica Swale she was also a regular contributor of, sometimes rather quirky, articles to Nature in Cambridgeshire.

Valentine’s Day, 2017

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Red roses, £6 a stem, for sale at a florist’s shop at Clapham South underground station, London Borough of Wandsworth, 13 February 2017.



Homage to ‘God’s Architect’

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The architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) is best known for his, as yet unfinished, church of the Holy Family (La Sagrada Familia) in Barcelona, Spain.  From 1915 he devoted his life to the building of this masterpiece, and following his death he was buried in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the its crypt.  He is said to have led an exemplary life as a devout member of the Roman Catholic Church

On the 66th anniversary of his death ‘a small group of Christians fond of the personality and work of Gaudi’ started the process which they hoped would lead to the canonization of ‘God’s architect’.

His tomb is decorated with fresh flowers and lit candles.

Image, 10 February 2017.

St Pancras and parsley

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Visited the church of Sant Jaume (St James the Apostle), reputedly the oldest church in Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain, on 10 February 2017.  The church is noteworthy for its side chapels which contain statues of saints, most of which are surrounded by numerous bunches of mostly fresh flowers.  An exception was the statue of Sant Pancraç (St Pancras), which had two vases of parsley (Petroselinum crispum) placed in front of it.

According to the woman tending the church’s shop, parsley is offered to St Pancras in the hope that the donor’s business will be successful.

The church of Santa Maria del Mar was visited later in the day.  It too had a statue of St Pancras with numerous candles lit in front of it, and a red and a white rose placed on the candle-holder, but no parsley.

Plant-lore Archive: January 2017

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Things progressed steadily during the month, with 9 items of information being received, so that the Archive now contains 7,374 items of information from 1,988 contributors.  Thanks to everyone for their contributions, and to J.B. Smith, formerly of Bath, but now of Chester, for a great deal of interesting correspondence concerning plant-lore found in dialect dictionaries.

5,823 searches were made of the website; up from 5,060 in December 2016, and 4,287 in January 2016.

Work continued on the contribution to The Cultural History of Plants and revising the Local Names database.  A visit was paid to the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival and several other events, and a well-attended lecture on the folklore and uses of common vegetables was given at the South London Botanical Institute.

The Facebook page Plant Lore and Traditions is slowly attracting more attention.

Commemoration of King Charles I, 2017

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Wreath placed by the King’s Army of the Civil War Society on the plinth of the equestrian statue of King Charles, Whitehall, London, to mark the anniversary of his beheading on 30 January 1649.  The plinth was also decorated with three wreaths composed mainly of white roses and eucalyptus foliage, from ‘the Governor-General and Members of the Royal Stuart Society’, ‘the Order of the Crown of Stuart’ and ‘the Memorial of Merit of King Charles the Martyr’, and a bunch of white roses which was left anonymously.

Image: 31 January 2017.

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