Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Rosebay willowherb

2014-07-12 15.14.161.  We always called the floating seeds sugars as children, and you got a wish if you caught one [Manchester, July 2017].

2.  I grew up in …  Magadan, Russia …  Fireweed (Russian name ivan-chai) grows there … and the flowers/leaves were traditionally used to make a drink.  According to folklore [the] blooming of the plant indicates the rolling away of the summer, with full bloom stating the beginning of autumn [Sutton, Surrey, September 2014].

3.  Also called bombweed or fireweed in Liverpool; we were heavily bombed in WW2 [Childwall, Liverpool, April 2013].

4. My mother used to call rosebay willowherb sticky willy, but I’m afraid I’ve no idea where she got it from! I imagine she learned it as a child – she was born in 1919 [Natural History Museum, London, February 2013].

5. I come from Twickenham in Middlesex and have always known fireweed as London’s ruin, as it was said that it only bloomed in London after the Great Fire of 1666 and after the Blitz [Tivetshall, Norfolk, August 1999].

6. London pride – the pink flower that I remember coming up everywhere in London after the War [anon., April 1999].

7. Clydebank was bombed during the last war and one of the casualities was the Singer Sewing Machine factory. On the bomb site a profusion of rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium) sprang up which the locals of that vintage call Singerweed [Harrogate, North Yorkshire, October 1998].

8. I started school in the [19]50s … An older generation than ours called rosebay willowherb bomb weed, because it was the first to grow on bomb sites [Capel, Kent, February 1998].

9. [A Shetland name ‘quite widely used’] Rosebay willowherb – French willow [Lerwick, Shetland, March 1994].

10. Relating to my childhood in the Macclesfield area of Cheshire in the 1940s …
Rosebay willowherb should not be picked, otherwise a thunderstorm will ensue, or, more horrifically, your mother will die. I think we called this plant thunder-flower [Skipton, North Yorkshire, November 1991].

Images:  main, Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire, July 2015; inset, Faversham, Kent, July 2014.