Thursday 29 June 2023

Plant Folklore and Magic: Herb-Robert in my Garden

Here's some Herb-Robert growing in a shady corner of my garden next to a little wall. It's a common wildflower in England, with tiny pink flowers and fern-like leaves. Bees and moths love it, but it also has heaps of uses in folk medicine and folk magic.

In many ways it's a plant of contradictions, because although some insects are attracted to the flowers, it has traditionally been used as a bug repellent. People crushed the leaves and rubbed them on their skin. As it smells rather unpleasant I'd probably only do that as a last resort. It's sometimes called Stinking Bob. Herbalists have used it for various other things too, including as an antiseptic.

The Latin name is Geranium robertianium. One theory about the more common term is that it was associated with Robin Goodfellow, a trickster spirit or fairy from English folklore. The herb's also sometimes called Red Robin, which links even more to the mischievous character. Others say the original Robert was an 11th-century herbalist monk who used the plant for healing. 

Herb-Robert has another, more ominous common name: death-come-quickly. This is a bit odd because the plant isn't toxic and generally has magical associations with good luck and fertility spells. However, in some places it was thought to be unlucky to bring it indoors. So, if you have it in your garden just leave a shady corner for it to grow in and naturally bless you with good luck and the bees with nectar.

The photo at the top doesn't really do the colour of the flowers justice and the photo at the side is a bit out of focus. I struggled to get a good picture with the camera on my phone because the flower really is very tiny. Yeah, I should have got out my digital SLR, I know.

Note: This post is for information purposes and is not medical advice. Always consult a qualified professional if you are unwell.

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