Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1. Artemisia, mugwort: Chinese women in Burgess Park [Southwark] collect on a regular basis. When asked they say ‘for the back‘ – I think they use it for moxibustion [Peckham, London, June 2012].

2. I was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in 1921 … When about 10 I and some of my pals thought we would try smoking. Our pipes were hollowed out acorns, and grass for the stem. The ‘tobacco’ was mugwort. It was so dreadful that I was cured of smoking for ever.
When on holiday in Cornwall, near Falmouth, I mentioned this smoking to a local, and he said they used to smoke the same tobacco, but called it muggers. I noted he did not smoke, so perhaps this mugwort could be used as a cure for smoking [Rugby, Warwickshire, February 1998].

3. An old lady, born c. 1870, from Crewkerne, Somerset, called mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) moggle. She said the leaves, after being hung up to dry, made substitute tobacco. My grandfather tried this during World War II, but was not overly impressed [Winchester, Hampshire, October 1996].

4. [Lithuania] To get rid of flies: Hang a stem/bunch of mugwort by a window or in a room – the flies will land on it. Then set an old pillow[case] and carefully raise it over this (the flies will be drowsy). Tie the pillow closed and then dunk it in the river to drown the flies [South London Botanical Institute, January 1996].

Images:  main,Wildlife Garden, The Natural History Museum, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, June 2014; inset, Biggar, South Lanarkshire, September 2022.