Lesser Evening Primrose

(Oenothera biennis) The tap roots have been used as a vegetable, boiled, which makes them quite nutritious, but they were little used after the introduction of the potato (C P Johnson). The taste is not unlike parsnips (Loewenfeld), or even salsify, so it is claimed (Kearney). There are a few medicinal uses. The American Indians, or at any rate the Ojibwe, used to soak the whole plant in warm water to make a poultice that would heal bruises (H H Smith. 1945). But there are recognized herbal...

Meadowsweet

(Filipendula ulmaria) Meadowsweet as the common name is firmly entrenched, but it was originally Meadwort, a name that surfaces occasionally today, in Somerset, for instance, and there is another form, Meadsweet that was used in Cornwall and elsewhere (Britten & Holland). The dried leaves were once used to give an aromatic bouquet not only to mead, but also to port and claret (Mabey. 1972). In the Mabinogion story of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, Gwydion and Math made Blodeuwedd from the flowers of the...

Pokeroot

(Phytolacca decandra) is a common American plant of waste places and roadsides. Children make a red ink from the purple berries, a time-honoured use in the United States, for the Indians used it to give a red stain with which to colour their ornaments (Sanford), and it has also been used (in Portugal) to deepen the colour of port (Whittle & Cook). The berries will also give, with alum as the mordant, red or tan colours, depending on the length of time of immersion, and the state of the...

Primrose

(Primula vulgaris) Primroses are fittingly fairy flowers, at least in Welsh and Irish folk tradition. But Milton must have been aware of the belief, too. His yellow-skirted fayes wore primroses. But fairy flowers can give protection from the fairies, too. Manx children used to gather them to lay before the doors of houses on May Eve to prevent the entrance of fairies, who cannot pass them, so it was said (Hull). So they did in Ireland, too (Briggs. 1967), and tied them to the cows' tails...

Nettle

(Urtica dioica) Nettle is a most useful, though a much maligned, plant. True, minds are exercised in trying to get rid of them. Country wisdom is of no great help, though in Herefordshire they used to say that if nettles are well beaten with sticks on the day of the first new moon in May, they will wither and not come up again (Leather). The advice given in the old rhyme Cut nettles in June, They come up again soon. Cut them in July, They're sure to die (Udal), seems rather more practical. More...

Coltsfoot

(Tussilago farfara) If the down flyeth off colt's foot, dandelyon, and thistles, when there is no winde, it is a sign of rain (1656, quoted in M E S Wright) (probably Coles, W. Knowledge of plants). The only other instance of folklore is recorded by Dyer. 1889, who said that on Easter Day the Bavarian peasants make garlands of coltsfoot and throw them into the fire. What was the ritual Coltsfoot had its uses, apart from the medical. We are told that the downy seed covering was used in the...

Meadow Saffron

(Colchicum autumnale) If Meadow Saffron bloomed on a grave, it was taken as a good sign for the deceased (Friend. 1883). In Lorraine, apparently, the flowers were crushed and put on the heads of children who had a lot of hair, in the belief that they would destroy the vermin that could not be reached by normal combing (Sebillot). There was an idea that these plants were fatal to dogs (cf the French names Mort-aux-chiens (Pratt) and Tue-chien (Bardswell). Certainly, all parts of the plant are...

Arthritis

A Kentish village remedy for arthritis required NETTLES to be cooked and eaten, and then the water in which they had been boiled had to be drunk (Hatfield. 1994). PRIMROSE leaves and flowers used in salads will, so it is claimed, help to keep off arthritis (Page. 1978). COMFREY root tea has been taken, too (Painter). A decoction of BIRTHWORT has been used to soothe the pain of arthritis (Schauenberg & Paris), and in Russian folk medicine. The much-vaunted Oil of EVENING PRIMROSE has also...