Lilian Snelling: the rhododendron and primula drawings H.J. Noltie
£9.99 | HB, 104 pages
A beautifully illustrated introduction to the work of a woman generally regarded as the most important British botanical artist of her time. Illustrated throughout with 110 full colour photos and reproductions of Snelling’s work.
Available at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s online Shop. Visit rbge.org.uk for details.
Rhododendron campylocarpum J.D. Hooker subsp. campylocarpum Discovered in Sikkim and described as the ‘curve-fruited rhododendron’ by Joseph Hooker, who considered the species to be ‘of surpassing delicacy and grace’ that claimed ‘precedence over its more gaudy congeners ... the most charming of the Sikkim Rhododendrons’. It forms a bush to 6 metres in height and occurs in hemlock and fir forest at altitudes of 3000 to 4600 metres from eastern Nepal, through Bhutan eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh and south-east Tibet, being replaced further east in Yunnan by subsp. caloxanthum. This specimen appears to have been sent to RBGE by one of the daughters of James Henry Mangles (1832–1884), who visited and admired the already fine collection of rhododendrons at RBGE in 1881. Mangles was Chairman of the London and South Western Railway Company and had a fine collection of rhododendrons at Valewood near Haslemere, Surrey.
Main: Snelling annotations: campylocarpum (Miss Mangles). Painted 31 May 1918. Left: Photograph of a plant at RBGE. R.M. Adam, 1 May 1914.
Another case where cultivation has complicated taxonomy, and a hybrid of g arden origin described as a new species by Balfour in 1920. Rhododendron vilmorinianum I.B. Balfour In 1980, James Cullen, while De puty Regius Kee per of RBGE, published a monog raph of the two largest sections of the lepidote rhododendrons, and in this he considered R. vilmorinianum to be a hybrid between the Chinese species R. augustinii and R. yunnanense. Balfour was aware of the similarity of the plants he described, which originated in French nur series, to R. augustinii, and his description of the new ‘species’ seems to be based both on hybrids, and on some true R. augustinii raised from seed sent back to the Parisian nur ser y of Vilmorin- Andrieux et Cie., collected in easter n Sichuan by the French missionar y Père Paul Guillaume Farges. Snelling’s drawing of a vegetative specimen, including exquisite details of the scales on the leaves and flower bud, was made from a plant in the RBGE Rhododendron House supplied by another French nur ser y, Leon Chenault et Cie. of Orleans; the ver y specimen that she drew is still in the Herbarium. Snelling annotations: French Augustinii. Painted Januar y 1918.
Scottish Plant Lore: An illustrated flora Gregory J. Kenicer £20.00 | HB, 192 pages
A beautifully illustrated and expeprt guide to the rich and surprising folklore of Scotland’s flora. Drawing together traditional knowledge form archives and oral histories with the work of some of the country’s finest botanical artists, this book is a magnificient celebration of the enormous wealth of Scottish plant lore. To order visit www.birlinn.co.uk/product/scottish-plant-lore or call 0845 370 0067 to order over the phone.
Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna Rosaceae (the rose family)
Boojuns, Chaw, Cheese-an-breid, Fleerish, Flourish, Has tree, Hathorn, Haw, Haw-berry, Haw-bush, Leddy’s meat
Gaelic: Habitat: Hawthorn is widespread throughout the country, in hedgerows, woodlands, parks and gardens from sea level to around 500 m. Flowering: April to June, but mostly May, hence the
Nettle Urtica dioica Urticaceae (nettle family) Scots:
Heg-beg, Jag, Jinnie nettle, Jobbie nettle Deanntag
Flowering: June to August Habitat: Open woodlands and disturbed sites –
a common urban plant
Left and right: Hawthorn by Nichola McCourty, watercolour (contemporary).
This small deciduous tree or shrub grows to 10 m. The bark is brown and grey and platy, ﬂaking off with age in either layers or in dark reddish strips. The leaves are spirally arranged on short shoots, which can be spiny. The ﬂowers are around 1.5 cm across, with white petals in dense domed heads. The fruits are the distinctive dark-red ‘haws’. Hawthorn is perhaps best known as a hedging tree, and is a major component of hedgerows. As Hooker’s Flora Scotica (1821) explains, “It is excellent for fences, and bears clipping admirably.” The wood was also valued for making small, decorative items, household tools and handles for larger implements. Mary Beith (2004) mentions its use medicinally for sore throats (as a decoction) and for treating imbalance in blood pressure.
The young leaves were, and are, eaten as a snack, hence some of the names relating to cheese and meat. Although the haws are unpalatable raw, they make an excellent jelly. The bark yields a black dye with copperas (iron sulphate) and, according to modern dyers, the leaves give an olive brown (with alum as a mordant). As a divinatory aid, the ﬂowering of hawthorn was a guide on when to put away the winter clothes. As the rhyme advises,“ne’er cast a cloot ‘til May is oot”. Like several other plants, it was believed to be unlucky to have hawthorn in the house, or even the garden because the ﬂowers allegedly smell of death. It appears often as trysting tree in tales of faerie lore. Indeed, ‘clootie trees’ (trees hung with cloths) were often hawthorns.
Chapter 4: Woodlands 113 166
Main and right: Nettle by Gloria Newlan, watercolour (contemporary).
Nettles are perennial herbs to 1.5 m tall (usually less than 1 m), spreading by underground rhizomes. The leaves grow in opposite pairs up the square stem (decussate), to 10 cm long, with teeth on the margins. There are stinging hairs throughout. The female and male plants are separate, with the ﬂ owers on both sexes very small, and borne on green catkins. Nettles are one of several plants used as a tonic in various forms. Widely used even today by foragers as a pot herb, the young plants or tops are gathered and used much like spinach. As a soup, or mixed in with porridge, many areas had their own version of what was sometimes termed ‘St Columba’s broth’, or nettle broth (cal deanntaig). The tradition in early spring was to take a set number of meals of the broth. Martin Martin (1703) records nettle leaves, crushed and added to meat or lentil broth, being used to alleviate rheumatism, and on Lewis these were fermented with reeds to produce an expectorant. Interestingly, an account almost 200 years later in the 1880s mentions a similar nettle ale being used to treat jaundice. Treatments for rheumatism and muscular pain appear throughout many sources over 350 years. Lightfoot (1777) mentions nettles being made into made into a strong decoction with salt, as a rennet substitute to curdle milk on Arran, often with Galium verum (lady’s bedstraw). The traditional idea that nettles grow in the slightly more alkaline areas where people urinated outside the house carries through today to explain the patches of nettles often seen near ruined blackhouses. However, as Johnson writes in his Useful Plants of Great Britain (1862), nettles were often semi-cultivated, and before his time it was common practice in Scotland to “Force the early nettles for their spring kail”. Johnson also mentions a wonderful report from a Mr Campbell who had eaten nettles: I have slept in nettle sheets and I have dined off a nettle table-cloth. The young and tender nettle is an excellent pot-herb. The stalks of the old nettle are as good as ﬂ ax for making cloth. I have heard my mother say, that she thought nettle more durable than any other species of linen. The versatile nettle was used for dyeing as well: green from the leaves, yellow from the roots and black with iron as a mordant.
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