Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Stinking Roger

The local names database, from which the Local Names page on this website is derived, contains almost 40 names which start with the word ‘stinking’.  Of these approximately 25% refer to ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris):  stinking alisander, stinking davie, stinking nanny, and so on.  Herb robert (Geranium robertianum) has six ‘stinking’ names, and other plants which have several include common and water figwort (Scrophularia nodosa and S. auriculata), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and ramsons (Allium ursinum).

When the names are analysed according to their second part, two plants have been called stinking billy, two stinking christopher, two stinking jenny, two stinking nanny, two stinking tan, two stinking willie, one stinking robert, and  seven  plants have been called stinking roger.   These are: alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), black horehound (Ballota nigra), the two figworts,  henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), herb robert, and hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum officinale).

Why should ‘roger’ be so strongly associated with ‘stinking’ names?

Image: black horehound, listed by James Britten and Robert Holland in their Dictionary of English Plant-names (1886) as being known as stinking roger in Shropshire; Spring Gardens, Vauxhall, London Borough of Lambeth, June 2018.