Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Strings tied to tree

A cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) tree – a very ordinary tree – at the edge of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden, London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, has a number of red-and-white strings and other objects attached to it, apparently by people reaching over from Cromwell Road, rather than by visitors to the garden. It appears that most of these strings were attached at the same time, but several appear to be more recent than the others.
Has anyone any idea what significance, if any, these strings might have? Please send any ideas to

Comment: On 1 March every town in Bulgaria is festooned with red and white ribbons. I had a Bulgarian friend … who handed them out. They celebrate Baba Marta, Grandmother March, and you wear them for the whole of March and then tie them to a tree to bring fertility both to the tree and to you for the coming year [e-mail, February 2019].


1. The tree in the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Garden was examined early in the afternoon of 1 March, but no new decorations had been added. However, a tree in the grounds of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, in Kensington Gardens, had a new-looking small figure made of red and white wool attached to it.

2. Tree in Wildlife Garden examined again on 5 and 13 March, still no fresh decorations.

3. A solitary red-and-white thread attached to a wild cherry (Prunus avium) tree, beside Bedford Hill, Tooting Common, London Borough of Wandsworth, 27 March 2019.

4.  Two red-and-white threads hung on blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) shrub, near the Amphibia Pools area, on Tooting Common, 28 March 2019.

5.  One red-and-white thread hung on a cherry (Prunus sp.) in Crystal Palace Park, London Borough of Bromley, 16 April 2019.

Upper photograph Wildlife Garden, 18 February; middle, Kensington Gardens, 1 March; lower, Tooting Common, 27 March, all 2019.

Updated  18 April 2019.

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