I wonder how many people now derive fun and games from the plants that grow in the hedgerows? Here are things to look for on those family walks.
I doubt there are many children who have not blown the ‘clocks’of a Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, to tell the time. Or laughed at anyone picking the yellow flowers, on the grounds that doing so would mean they would inevitably wet the bed! Of course they are also well known as a salad leaf, or as dandelion and burdock fizzy pop. Its number of country names are only exceeded by it listed medicinal properties, from liver function to heart disease via diabetes and weight loss – but to the child? It is a fun clock!
Holding a Buttercup, Ranunculaceae, flower beneath someone’s chin was a sure fired way to see if they liked butter, we were assured. Another weed that was used in salads – though in small quantities as it is very bitter and can upset the gut. Eating them was never as much fun as shining that glorious flower to a friend’s chin and seeing the yellow glow.
Another plant that gave us fun as children was the Greater Stitchwort, one of the Chickweed Caryophyllaceae family. Pretty flowers and hours of fun in popping the seed pods – hence the common name of popweed. Never mind plastic bubble-wrap – popweed is a natural stress reliever!
Hedge Bindweed Calystegia sepium is another fun flower. Also known as Columbine, Bellbind and Granny-pop-out-of-bed – which is where the fun comes in. Squeeze the bulb at the back of the flower and it will ‘pop’ off of its stem. Contests to see how far you could get Granny to pop were noisy to say the least.
Walking back from the allotment this afternoon I noted a large clump of Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata, which is the plant that set off my train of thought. I always love the look of this plant, and I know that it has been a medicinal plant for centuries. A tea or syrup can be made from the leaves as a cough medicine. A poultice from the leaves was used to relieve stings and skin irritations. But the fun part comes from the fact that the flower stalks are tough and flexible enough to tie, and when looped around the back of the seed head can be a harmless projectile that was used in ‘plantain wars’. Stain (and bruise) free paint-balling!
Hedgerow toys are all around us if you know where to look!