Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1. [d.o.b. 30.12.1946] I was brought up in the country and lived in various places [in Devon] … I remember every Sunday we all … walked to Sunday School … hedgerows were very appealing to us, but there was one plant we always kept well away from and as children we called it snake’s poison … it was a tight orangey-red cluster of bead-like fruit on a thick green stalk [Exeter, Devon, September 2011].

2. Wild arum (Arum maculatum) has one of the biggest collections of country names of any plants. As a child I was always warned that it was poisonous and used to admire the clusters of red berries in the hedgerows in autumn. For some strange reason I used to refer to them as rat berries! I wonder if they were ever used as a poison for rodents or any other species? [Clonlara, Co. Clare, August 1995].

3. [Pinhoe, Devon] Snake’s food – Arum maculatum, lords-and-ladies; as children (and adults!) we always used this name [Pembroke Dock, Dyfed, October 1994].

4. This may be a little ‘blue’ to make note of, but the local folk call cuckoo pint dog’s dick. My son told me this and he has lived here for forty years [Welshpool, Powys, August 1994].

2014-03-24 12.28.395. When we were very young at school (and innocent) we used to say you (girls) should never touch cuckoo pint; if you did you’d become pregnant. Where that silly idea started I do not know [Thorncombe, Dorset, March 1982].

Images: main, Therfield Heath, Hertfordshire, May 2016; upper inset, Ludlow, Shropshire, July 2018; lower inset, Braunton, north Devon, March 2014.