Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

REMINDER: Winter plant walk

Sunday 11 February, Winter Plant Walk, in Leader’s Gardens, Putney, meet at the Ashlone Road entrance of the Gardens, near Loo Loo’s Café, at 2.30 p.m. for a stroll around the small green space, discussing some of the plants growing there.  All welcome; voluntary collection in aid of local Green Party funds.

Report:   Despite good publicity (thanks Di McCann and Glyn Goodwin), only six people turned up to this walk; possibly people were discouraged by a short-lived sleet shower shortly before it was due to                                                                 start.

We walked around the Gardens examining some of the plants growing there, starting with ivy (Hedera helix) and finishing with birch (Betula sp.).  The plants discussed included both wild and cultivated ones, and among the latter we examined New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), now naturalised on the Isles of Scilly and, more rarely in southwest England.  Joseph Banks, who collected plants on James Cook’s first (1768-71) voyage, noted that Maoris used Phormium as a fibre-plant, and hoped that it might be usefully cultivated for this purpose in Britain, but this never happened, and the plant was forgotten until recent decades when it became popular as a robust ornamental.  However, one of the participants on the walk told us that New Zealand flax used to be grown for fibre on St Helena, where it was processed in mills.  The cultivation has now ceased, and the plant has become a serious pest on the island.  (According to  the British Post Office was a major customer, and the flax industry rapidly declined after it decided in 1965 to use synthetic fibres for its mailbags; ‘the result was considerable unemployment’).

£22.62 was contributed to Green Party funds.  The next walk in this series will be on Tooting Common on  Sunday 25 February (see the Events page on this website for details).

Lower image:  tattered leaf of New Zealand flax showing fibrous veins, cultivated, Earls Court, London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, September 2022.

Updated 14 September 2022.

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