I thought you might like to have a picture of Rose Baywillow Herb. A quick check on Google shows that the spelling of wildflower names is one of man-(and woman)-kind’s more creative occupations. In the end I went with the one above – but please feel free to adjust it, should you feel a desperate need.
Rose Baywillow Herb is a first responder – any time there’s a vacant piece of ground Rose Baywillow Herb is at the front of the queue.
The herbalists of the Middle Ages – that period when we all spoke Anglo-Saxon, before contiguous generations of teenagers mangled it into the language we speak today – noted that Rose Baywillow Herb was a northern plant. It no doubt garnered its liking for minimal competition from the days when the ice sheet that covered most of the world started to melt back (global warming has a lot to answer for) leaving vacant ground ready for the taking. Even today, in the wilds of Alaska they chop it up and mix it with their dog food.
When the railways crept south from George Stevenson’s sheds, Rose Baywillow Herb took the raw scars of new railway lines as a sign from above – and moved south.
Those years we are blessed with a really rotten summer, the autumn brings a magnificent display of flame coloured foliage – a good summer leaves it brown, desiccated and uninspiring.
When we return from our daily walk – down the hill, over the beck, then round to the T junction in the next village or, up the hill and round to where the road and the railway cross – there is a ritual that is an essential part of the routine. On entering the house The Dog will stand and wait. First she must have her lead un-clipped, then she needs her harness removed. Jackie will first fetch a towel and a brush, then she will dry and brush The Dog’s feet, one at a time. During this procedure The Dog will stand there and raise each foot, on an as required basis, to be dealt with.
Watching this happen every day leads me to ponder the evolutionary development that has led dogs and humans to be such natural collaborators. Indeed how did Eve O’lution work out, all those millions of years ago, that being able to stand on three feet while raising the forth – would have such survival value? And how did humans, those same millions of years ago, work out that dog treats would have such a part to play in this collaboration?
Insects and flowers have also developed a degree of collaboration – now the Foxgloves just need to train the bees to wipe their feet.
Behind the house is a small patch of grass (it needs mowing at the moment). Beyond the grass, the oak trees of the wood march down the hill and the rhododendrons, lilac, broom and gorse of the shrubbery, fight a fierce rearguard action. Giving ground only where they must, pushing back up the hill, seizing every opportunity to advance when they can. Glancing out of the window earlier this week something in the lilac tree caught my eye. Sure enough, on closer inspection, a few strands of honeysuckle had appeared there, out of nowhere.
Dr Bach, in 1936, felt that Honeysuckle was the treatment for those who were stuck in the past, with no wish to move forward. Nicholas Culpeper, in around 1653, wrote that “a conserve made from the flowers should be kept in every gentlewoman’s house.” As it was good for all those women’s problems, which we won’t list here, although he did. John Gerard, writing in 1597, declared that, “a syrup made of the flowers is good to be drunk against diseases of the lungs and spleen.”
The flowers have a wonderful scent in the evening – especially after a warm sunny day, the berries are mildly poisonous and goats find the leaves absolutely delicious – or so they say.
We will overcome all who stand in our way. Those who oppose us will be as nothing. They will be as chaff before the winds of our might. Never before have the oppressed and disregarded had a champion of such stature and heroism. None of those who so foolishly attempt to thwart our progress will survive our displeasure. We come, not as cowards who creep past in the dark of night, but as conquerors with trumpets blaring and the ‘Hallelujahs’ of the army of our followers ringing in our ears.
We will not rest. We will be tireless. We will carry the torch of our commitment to the darkest corner. We will light up the faces of the downtrodden masses with the torch of honesty and the fierce glow of the freedom they hunger for.
Our opponents tremble at our righteous indignation, they know we will oppose them at every turn. We will oppose them in the hedgerows. We will oppose them on the verges. Join with us as we stand together, leaf to leaf.
Prickly Sow Thistles – I’m sure we’ve all come across them as we wander through the randomness of life. A situation that looked like a sweet innocent dandelion until you reach out for it. Then its promise evaporated, leaving you, completely nonplussed, and picking sharp prickly bits out of your fingers.
Did pigs ever really eat them I wonder? I also wonder whether the population has truly lost as much countryside law as we assume. Was every Tom, Dick and Harriett able to recognise and name all the plants that we find on our verges and in our hedgerows? Did every single person carry this encyclopedic knowledge around in their heads? To be honest, I don’t think so. I don’t believe people who lived a thousand years ago were any better naturalists than the people I meet when we’re out on our daily stroll. To some of us it’s just grass and weeds, others see old friends who return every year.
Just as in the case of the wren and the robin – the wren was thought to be a female robin – I’d hazard a guess that this plant came to be called a Sow Thistle merely because it wasn’t a real thistle. It was a false thistle – looking for the reason that makes it a Sow Thistle, I think we must refer to the robin and wren example, above.