Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Sea campion

1. Silene uniflora: a sea campion flower turned inside out makes a little ballerina [St Martin, Guernsey, April 2002].

2. Sea campion has five different Jersey-French-Norman names, three of which indicate its use in a children’s game. The calyx is turned inside out and the petals removed together with all but two of the stamens, these being retained to represent the arms of a washerwoman hanging the washing on the line. This is sometimes called a crinolined lady, and heated exchanges have taken place over this point [St Saviour, Jersey, May 1993].

3. From an elderly friend in Porthnockie, about 30 miles from Burghead: deadman’s bells = sea campion … it was untouchable, never picked and never brought into the house; she thinks the reason for this ban was that in that area of steep cliffs it grew on rocky ledges, highly dangerous for children.
A friend who used to live in Buckie knew sea campion as devil’s hatties; it grew in a dangerous area called ‘The Back o’ the Head’, i.e. the headland of Burghead [Edinburgh, December 1991].

Image: South West Coast Path between Lynmouth and Combe Martin, north Devon; March 2014.