Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Welcome-home-husband …

Both houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum, and biting stonecrop, Sedum acre, have acquired names such as welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk.

Thus Peter Wyse Jackson, in his Ireland’s Generous Nature, 2001, records welcome-home-husband-however-drunk-you-be as a name for houseleek, and states that is is due to ‘the tradition that the leaves chewed can help to disguise the aroma of alcohol on the breath’.  Gabrielle Hatfield, in Hatfield’s Herbal, 2007 suggests that houseleek may have been given this name ‘because the offshoots, which bear small rosettes, are sometimes dislodged by the wind and roll drunkenly down the roof slope’.

Welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-late was recorded for houseleek, without explanation, from Wareham, Dorset, in 1991.

Welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk has been recorded for biting stonecrop in Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and Suffolk.  This has been explained by Jonathan Tulloch, in The Times ‘Nature Notes’ of 12 August 2020 as ‘probably reflect[ing] the fact that it can gleam so brightly on a roof that the befuddled pubgoer could find their way home well after closing time’.

Comment:  According to Alice Smith, in her book The Physick Garden (2022):  ‘Some folklorists believe [the name welcome-home-husband-however-drunk-you-be] to be linked to the old culinary claim that meat spiced with houseleek increases male virility [RV, November 2022].

Has anyone any further explanations for these names, or any comments on them?  If you do, please send them to

Images:  upper, houseleek, planted, St Peter and St Paul churchyard, London Borough of Merton, March 2014; lower, biting stonecrop, Tooting Common, London Borough of Wandsworth, June 2021.

Updated 2 November 2022.

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