Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Rabbit’s candle

Posted on by royvickery |

Schistostega_pennata_(a,_144640-481257)_3036 (1)Thanks  to Stephen Ward, of Arnside, Cumbria, for the following contribution:

Some years ago, I was wont to go of a summer’s evening to the north-west face of Black Mount, which lies to the south-west of Edinburgh.  The lower slopes are covered by grassland, cropped short by sheep and their lambs.  The turf is nibbled even shorter by rabbits, which scurry away in every direction.  In places the ground is a myriad of their burrows.  At this time of year, the setting sun inclines for a short while straight down the burrows.  And, down these very same burrows, I would on occasion glimpse the most brilliant emeralds shining out at me, a hint of a veritable Aladdin’s cave below ground.                                                      Reaching down a burrow with a view to picking up one of these emeralds, I found in my hand a most non-descript moss of diminutive stature.  Sending it to a friend and colleague, Nick Hodgetts, consultant bryologist, he kindly identified it as Schistostega pennata, a rare moss, that he describes as always a joy to find.  Not many mosses have common names, but the brilliance of this one has clearly registered with country folk and [it] is known as rabbit’s candle.

The official English name for S. pennata is luminous moss; are there any other folk names?  Please send any comments to


1. From Rory, a  participant in a Queer Plant-lore discussion, 21 May 2024:  ‘It’s known as goblin’s gold here in Cornwall.  Currently not a massive amount, but something folk like to find on old mining sites.’

2.  Dragon’s gold [BBC Wildlife Magazine, February 2018].

Image: Hermann Schachner, Wiki Commons.

Updated 22 May 2024.

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