Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


Hound’s-tongue, Cynoglossum officinale, is a biennial herb which is widely distributed on dry habitats, including shingle and disturbed sandy places such as around rabbit warrens, often near the sea most frequently in southeast England.  In late summer its spiny fruits readily attach themselves to woollen socks and similar garments.

No material concerning the plant has been received by Plant-lore Archive.  Local names include: dog’s breath in Cornwall, gypsy-flowers ‘from the dark hue of it flowers’ in Gloucestershire, little burdock referring to ‘its fruits which like those of burdock [Arctium spp.] bear numerous hooks’ in East Anglia, mice in Somerset, navelwort and rats-and-mice in Wiltshire, scald-head ‘i.e. scabies, ringworm, etc.’ in Suffolk, sticky buds ‘referring to the hook-bearing fruits’, stinking roger in Lancashire, and tear-coat ‘referring to the hooked fruits’ in Dublin.

Otherwise the only known folklore associated with hound’s-tongue comes from the Royal Cornwall Gazette of 7 September 1805, where it was said that hound’s-tongue ‘gathered full of sap and bruised with a hammer’ would make mice and rats immediately leave barns and granaries’.

Nowadays hound’s-tongue can be found in scattered localities around the Cornish coast, particularly the north coast.

Adapted from Vickery’s Folk Flora (2019).

Image:  Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, East Sussex, May 2022.