Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Fairy foxglove

1. Fairy foxglove is a small purple flower which grows intermittently on stone walls in north-east England. Local tradition says that it only grows where Roman soldiers have trod, and certainly it is to be found in the village of Wall (which is, of course, located near Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland) [Hexham, Northumberland, June 1990].

Image: Battle, East Sussex; May 2014.

Note:  According to David McClintock in his Companion to Flowers (1966):  ‘The fairy foxglove Erinus alpinus was sown at the end of the last century on the walls of the Roman Villa, Housesteads, on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.  This is a recorded fact and yet there are still tales told of the plant surviving since Roman days – when, anyway, there is not the slightest evidence Romans would ever have introduced it.  In fact this European mountain plant has been deliberately sown and merrily escaping from rockeries in widely separated parts of Britain, and very welcome it is …’