Ribwort Plantain  Plantago lanceolata

Ribwort is a perennial, growing in so many diverse places, and in such abundance, that few people can fail to recognize it. In lawns it will spread rapidly, choking out the grass, and on wasteland it will colonize vast areas. The leaves grow at the base of the plant, forming a rosette; they are long and tapering in shape, and characterized by five (or fewer) prominent veins, or ribs, which are what give the plant its name. Throughout the summer long stalks are sent up, bearing the flowers, which can be of all shapes and sizes, but roughly resemble small elongated black eggs, which when
mature are graced with a crown of conspicuous stamens (that part of the plant which produces pollen). These splendid stamens have been likened to a coxcomb, and from this resemblance the mature flower heads are called ‘cocks’, and the young heads, not yet having developed stamens, ‘hens’. There is a very excellent game which can be played with these called ‘cocks and hens’ or ‘Kemps’, whereby one person picks a strong cock with a good length of stem, and strikes it against another held by someone else; if both cocks remain intact then it is the second person’s turn to strike, and the game continues in this way with the players taking it in turn to strike, until the flower-head of one of the stalks falls off. The person with the entire cock has won the game, and is ready to accept a new challenge.


Ground Ivy  Glechoma hederacea

The ground ivy is a low-lying, creeping plant, spreading by runners which take root upon contact with the soil; its stem is tough and square, its leaves dark green, remaining on the plant all Winter. Where the leaves join the stem a cluster of discreet purple flowers occur, and a succession of these keeps the plant in bloom from March to June. It poses little problem as a garden weed, as it prefers hedgerows and such other shaded places, where it will be seen mingling with the true, or common ivy—it is from the similarity in their foliage colour and this same like for shady spots, that has given the ground ivy its name. Since ancient times ground ivy has been esteemed excellent for the chest, its leaves infused in boiling water and sweetened with a little honey proving an excellent cure for a long-standing cough. It may also be interesting to remark, that before the 17th century, when hops became the favourite plant for brewing beer, the leaves of ground ivy were used for this purpose—and with great effect too, it being said that they quite improved the flavour, as well as keeping quality of the beer. However, ground ivy does not seem to be at all popular with animals, for pigs, horses, goats and cattle will not touch it.


Lesser Celandine  Ranunculus ficaria

A herald of spring and warmer weather, the lesser celandine flowers from February to April, forming a   thick carpet of gold where abundant. It is found throughout Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, and in damp spots in deciduous woods. Here the celandine exploits the trees’ natural cycle, blooming while their branches are bare in early spring, then dying back completely once their leaves come out and the shade becomes dense – this shade, however, is also vital, for it kills grass and other weeds with which the celandine could not normally compete. For the propagation of its species the celandine has several devices; its flowers ripen into seed heads, but fertilization is often poor, the early months being too cold for many insects; as an alternative method small tubers form in the leaf axils, which drop off in early summer and grow new plants. The celandine is a perennial, and dies back each year, but the roots continue to live and grow under the ground. These roots are actually bulbs or tubers, which store all the plant’s energy through winter, and are then able to push forth leaves and flowers in early spring, when other plants are still dormant. The tubers grow and multiply every year, this being another way in which the celandine spreads.
Its botanical name, Ranunculus ficaria, is derived from the Latin word rana meaning frog, because frogs live in the same habitats as the buttercup family (i.e. marsh), to which the lesser celandine belongs, and ficus (a fig), because its tubers resemble bunches of figs. Its common name, lesser celandine, was mistakenly given to it when it was thought to be one and the same plant as the true or greater celandine, to which it bears no resemblance except in the colour of its flowers – both being yellow. The word celandine comes from the Greek word chelidon, meaning swallow, the greater celandine coming into bloom when these birds arrive, and withering on their departure.

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