Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Otmast

In the latest part of BSBI News* (no. 121: 41, 2012) David Cann identifies the fruit known as otmast.
This fruit was collected at Heligan in 1912 and used for ‘stuffing cooked pheasants’.
Heligan, near Mevagissey in Cornwall, is famous for its gardens which were developed by the Tremayne family from the mid eighteenth century until early in the twentieth century. After the First World War they were neglected and forgotten until they were restored and opened to the public as the Lost Gardens of Heligan in the 1990s.
Following Friends of Heligan being told of otmast, June Ford remembered how her father, Preston Thomas, had ‘taken her to two locations in the late 1930s and early 1940s (each with a single tree) where the trees would be climbed and the fruits thrown down’. After much searching, a tree was found which was subsequently identified as Devon whitebeam, Sorbus devoniensis.
This species one of a number of whitebeams which are native only to the British Isles. It can be found in east Cornwall, Devon, south Somerset and southeast Ireland, and naturalised in north Wales and northeast Ireland.

*BSBI News is the newsletter of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, see http://bsbi.org.uk.

Image: specimen collected by Augustin Ley at Kings Nympton, Devon, 19 September 1882, now in the herbarium of the South London Botanical Institute; thanks to Chris Liffen.

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