Mr.Dennis Malin of Bidford has on several occasions looked back to the old days' in our local countryside and we have been in his debt. Obviously, he has a good memory and (perhaps what we lack today) he has had an eye for detail: this is nowhere more apparent than in his latest communication, in which he remembers the local flora, some of which were not and still are not, appreciated by many people.
Among many pests in the garden are: the little scarlet pimpernel or travellers hour glass, which closes at night, white-flowered chickweed, blue speedwell, the arum lily (parson in the pulpit or cuckoo-pint). Mr.Malin wonders whether we can identify these few: one wonders. Many plants have a hidden purpose: the stinging nettle (whose vengful sting can be counteracted by the dock-leaf) can be made into a stimulating tea; the dandelion, whose leaves may be used in salads and the yellow flowers made into a potent wine; deadly nightshade used to make belladonna plasters; fox-gloves, from which was derived the heart stimulant digitalis. Mr.Malin continues with more common plants (at least, they were common): creeping red-berried bryony pink nutweed (pigweed), cleaver (Hayrift, goosegrass or sweethearts) and prickly thistles about which country folk had a rhyme:
Cut a thistle in May
Cut a thistle in June
It will be back soon;
Cut a thistle in July
it will surely die.
Pink and white campion, rosebay willow it will be back next day; herb,herb robert, herb william, white mayweed, pale blue birdseye, yellow buttercup, white hemlock (Cow parsley or Queen Annes lace), yellow colts-foot, teasels (used in decorations), thrift (depicted on old 3d pieces), the little yellow hen and chickens bogwort, pipers bugloss, pale mauve ladysmock, yellow charlock, lambs quarter (muckweed), the very rare thorn apple: this last-named was once reportable by law and destroyed by the ministry man.
Notes from F.M.
The thorn apple reference here shows one of the problems of referring to plants by their common names. In many country areas Black Hawthorn is called thorn apple, this is a fairly innocuous plant. However the reference here is to an entirely different plant (aka Jimsonweed) which is extremely dangerous.
N.B. You should never under any circumstances eat any part of a wild plant, unless you have an accurate identification by a professional botanist, even these have been known to wrong ! Many people are poisoned each year through misidentification of berries etc.
Spring 1986 Index
© Alcester & District Local History Society 1986