Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

About the compiler

Roy Vickery was born in March 1947 in rural west Dorset. From 1965 to 2007 he worked as a botanist at the Natural History Museum, London. He remains a Scientific Associate at the Museum, where he mainly helps with the curation of its lichen collections.  After 10 years as chairman of the Trustees of the South London Botanical Institute in September 2014 he was elected president of the Institute.  On his 75th birthday, in March 2022, he retired from this post, and retired from his role as a Trustee of the Institute in November 2023.  He was from 2011-4 a vice-president of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and is unofficial botanical recorder for Tooting Common in the London Borough of Wandsworth.
He has collected, and written about, plant folklore for over four decades.

Since 1975 he has produced some 140 publications on plant-lore, including:

Holy Thorn of Glastonbury, St Peter Port: Toucan Press, 1979, an account of the legends associated with Glastonbury’s holy thorn.

Traditional uses and folklore of Hypericum in the British Isles, Economic Botany 35: 289-95, 1981.

Unlucky Plants, London: Folklore Society, 1985, results of a survey of plants which are believed to cause misfortune if picked or taken indoors.

Traditional herbal remedies in the British Isles: Some recently collected examples, Ethnobotany 6: 1-14, 1994.

A Dictionary of Plant-lore, Oxford, O.U.P., 1995, wide-ranging survey of British and Irish plant folklore, concentrating on material collected in the late 20th century.

Oaks in British and Irish Folklore, International Oaks 15: 59-67, 2004.

Naughty Man’s Plaything – Folklore & Uses of Stinging Nettles in the British Isles, London: the author, 2008, small booklet providing a comprehensive survey of nettle-lore.

Garlands, Conkers & Mother-die: British & Irish Plant-lore, London: Continuum, 2010, essays on aspects of plant folklore, using previously published and recently collected material.

Vickery’s Folk Flora: An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2019, a greatly expanded version of the 1995 Dictionary of Plant-lore, with illustrations, increased information on local names, and an attempt to try and record when and where beliefs and practices occurred.

Roy is an experienced lecturer on plant folklore, and is also available to lead walks on the uses and folklore of plants – you provide the weed patch or the hedgerow, he will do the rest. As such events are considered to be important opportunities for collecting new material they are usually given free of charge in the Greater London area, and with only a charge to cover transport elsewhere. See the Events page for details of upcoming activities.


Upper:  discussing white comfrey (Symphytum orientale), Clapham Common, London Borough of Lambeth, April 2023, © Carlos Bruzon.
Lower: examining Koch’s gentian (Gentiana acaulis), native to the Alps, North Downs Way between Box Hill and Merstham, Surrey, where it was planted in the 1960s and has since become naturalised, October 2011, © Andrew Hay.

Updated 26 December 2023.

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