Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1. I come from the Isle of Man. My father told me that ragwort was a magical plant; if you pulled it you had to apologise to it, or else the fairies might get you. He wasn’t a Manxman himself, but he might have got it from an old Manxman [Natural History Museum, London, December 1995].

2. Manx National Flower: Cushag (Manx Gaelic), Senecio jacobaea, ragwort, dog’s standard – no great antecedents. Reputedly a sarcastic Victorian Governor-General said it must be, there is so much of it in the fields [Manx Museum, June 1994].

0513. In my native Highlands masses of the common ragwort grows in fields, roadsides, etc. … it is usually referred to in the North as Stinking Willie, partly on account of its unpleasant smell, but more for the fact that it sprang up everywhere that William, Duke of Cumberland, otherwise the Butcher, had been when he perpetrated the massacre after the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and Stinking Willie it has remained.
The seeds were supposed to have come from the fodder provided for the Butcher’s horses [Evesham, Worcestershire, January 1982].

Images: main, Barking Abbey, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, July 2014; inset, Trent Country Park, London Borough of Enfield, August 2015.