Author Archives: admin

Review of : Roy Vickery, VICKERY’S FOLK FLORA

An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £30

Until quite recently, the duckweed-carpeted canals and flooded pits of Lancashire were said to be inhabited by a bogey called Jinny Greenteeth, whose “long green hair and long green fingers” would drag hapless children down into their depths. It was an untypically practical superstition, a device to discourage youngsters from venturing onto what can look like seductively smooth patches of grass. You have to search hard for such sensible explanations across the bulk of Britain’s plant folklore, a florid almanac of calendar customs, arcane domestic rituals, artful games and outlandish remedies that suggest 21st century Britain has an ethnobotany more complex than Amazonia. Plants’ local names alone reflect the entire range of human response to the vegetable world. But it’s hard to imagine what torrid night-time encounter led to the Dorset tag of ‘welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk’ for stonecrop, grown on roofs as a magical defence against lightning. Continue reading