Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

White heather

1.  I went to an all-girl Church of England boarding school in the countryside in New South Wales in the late 1960s.  The Deputy Headmistress was a charming, if somewhat intimidating …  elderly Scottish lady …  Miss Young, or Youngie as she was affectionately known, always had an annual consignment of ‘lucky white heather’ sent out from Scotland, or so she said, and of course why would we not believe it – in those days everyone told the truth.  (Australian Plant Import authorities would on her like a ton of bricks these days!).  An individual small sprig of white heather would be given to every girl sitting her final exams.  In my case, graduating in 1970, it was Higher School Certificate.  I believed it always helped! [Putney, London, December 2016].

2.  [Referring to Scotland] White heather was and is considered lucky (because of rarity?) and commonly used in bridal bouquets [Walthamstow, London, October 2015].

3.   5-7 and 17-18 November 2010 visited many gift shops in Edinburgh but only one sold anything – engraved glass tumblers with heather motifs – relating to lucky white heather.  This was repeated 6-9 November 2015, nothing relating to white heather was found in gift shops in Princes Street and the Royal Mile.  Occasionally unattractive bunches of plastic heather were for sale, these came in two colours, purple and ‘cream’, even though the ‘cream’ was actually white.

4.  From my own childhood at East Cowes during the late twenties and thirties … Good luck – white  heather [Ryde, Isle of Wight, November 1988].

2014-09-30 15.42.205.  As one superstition dies others grow so all is well … [there are] places where white heather, which is generally considered lucky, is looked on with dread; the same about white and black cats [Oxford, February 1985].

6. My grandfather (a Scottish royalist) always said that white heather was unlucky because of its connection with the banishment of Bonny Prince Charles, but I know no more than this as it was told me before I became interested in folklore [Towcester, Northamptonshire, August 1982].

Images: main, white heather (Erica), planted on grave,  Holy Trinity Cemetery, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany, April 2015; inset, white-flowered form of heather (Calluna vulgaris), cultivated, Wychnor Park Country Club, Staffordshire, September 2014.