Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

One child’s small ‘war effort’ 1942-5

Note kindly supplied by Janet Rawlings, of Beckenham, Kent, November 2016:

Yes, I know the War lasted from 1939 to 1945, but these memories relate to time spent in Perthshire, after my mother took myself and two older sisters there to escape the London Blitz.  She had friends in Aberfeldy where she and my father had honeymooned in 1919, and our first ‘home’ there was one room in a two-bedroom flat already occupied by two adults and children.

The local schools had summer holidays staggered from July to October to provide labour for the tattie [potato, Solanum tuberosum]-picking – paid piece-rate, but very hard on young urban backs.  Summer and autumn activities were outdoors as we went to the heather-covered hills to gather sphagnum moss, to the woods for foxglove [Digitalis purpurea] seeds, to the hedgerows gathering rose [Rosa canina]-hips.  These being used to respectively make wound-dressings (the moss being highly absorbent), heart disease medication, and rosehip syrup – rich in vitamin C.  This last product was issued to pregnant women and infants during the War and many years afterwards

My mother was a keen gardener, so another part of my war contribution was helping her cultivate a small wilderness into a productive vegetable garden.

Image: specimen of Sphagnum quinquefarium, five-ranked bog-moss, collected in the Maentwrog valley, Merionethshire, on April 1901 by D.A. Jones, now in the herbarium of the South London Botanical Institute.