Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Dog rose

1. Growing up in Berlin, Germany, in the 80s and 90s  we used rose hips to produce itching powder to rub into someone’s neck [Streatham, London, October 2021].

2. My grandparents in Sweden showed me how to make itching powder from rose hips [West Norwood Cemetery, London, March 2020].

3.  I used to make itching powder from rose hips.  That was in France [Brompton Cemetery, London, September 2017]; practice also recorded from Holland and Sweden, [South London Botanical Institute, February 2018].

4.  [c. 1997]  Rose hips –  used as itchy bombs.  Simply crack open a rosehip and rub the contents under someone’s shirt/jumper and enjoy the chaos.  Brilliant stuff as kids – very popular in hometown of Durham [Natural History Museum, London, June 2015].

5.  As children (in south Scotland) my mother made rose hip syrup which we had daily over the winter as prevention against colds [Lichfield Wildlife Group, Staffordshire, September 2014].

6.  During the early war years, when we were living on the Hants/Sussex border, not far from Petersfield … Of course the boys delighted in picking ‘itchy-pips’ to put down each other’s necks, these were the seeds of rose hips, their hairy covering was extremely irritating [Wookey, Somerset, September 2012].

7. [Somerset] In the 1940s we got a day off school to go and pick rose hips. These were to make rose hip syrup which was given to babies. The top class (8-10 year-olds) were sent off, in pairs or groups – without adult supervision – to find and pick as many rose hips as we could before returning to school. We weren’t told what time we had to be back at school – we didn’t have watches – but hunger ruled so no one stayed out too long [St Marychurch, Devon, August 2011].

0088. ‘My brother put the itching powder [of dog rose] down my neck once.’
‘Where was that?’
‘It was when we were in Ireland; I think he learnt it from Irish cousins.’
[Natural History Museum, London, September 2010].

9. I am now 53. Rose itching powder was a great favourite at school – then known as Thetford Secondary Modern. Several boys would take the hips to school in their pockets in a complete state. This stopped the ‘vital ingredients’ affecting the collector. On spotting an unwary victim one or two hips would be broken open, most of the husk discarded, and the resulting seeds and irritating hairs thrust down his/her back via the collar. On certain days the various gangs dared not turn their backs on their rivals. I can assure you it is very uncomfortable, especially if you had sports period afterwards and became hot and sweaty. We used the hips of dog rose (Rosa canina) as well as those of sweet briar (Rosa rubiginosa). They were both far more effective if the hips were left until they were very old and had become soft and brown [West Stow, Suffolk, September 2002].

10. My mother gathered hedge plants for medicinal uses, and was one of the rose hip gatherers for rose-hip syrup during the War. We’d all help of course. Great days [Barnstaple, Devon, August 2001].

11. Inside of rose hips for itchy ‘powder’ [Kingsbridge, Devon, April 1999].

12. I questioned my garden helper – a Suffolk man of 83 … he remembers …
Eggs-and-bacon – shoots of wild rose, eaten by children [Westleton, Suffolk, March 1998].

13. Cures known to me as having been used in St Davids and local area … rose hip tea – good for everything [St Davids, Pembrokeshire, October 1991].

14. I have memories of collecting rose hips when I was about 10 years old. I lived in a village with my family and that would be about 1945. The teacher at the school I went to would take us for walks and we would pick rose hips and they would be sent away to make the syrup; we would be paid for every pound we picked [Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, October 1988].

Images:  main, Canvey Island, Essex, August 2014; upper inset, Biddenden, Kent, June 2022; lower inset, Wandle Meadow Nature Park, London Borough of Merton, October 2015.