tempus fugit

By ceridwen

Hedgerow anachronisms

July and the warm wet weather has created an explosion of wild flowers along the lanes and paths. Their names come to me unbidden as I pass by,  a rollcall of familiar faces that return briefly for the summer season.  I enjoy the fact that many of the vernacular names  preserve pieces of the past like verbal flies in amber, habits once commonplace now all but forgotten.

Take these three for example. Loosestrife on the left was thought to calm frayed tempers and therefore bunches of it were fastened to the yokes of oxen as a sedative,  in the hope that the animals would 'lose strife'.
The tough ground-hugging stems of restharrow (centre) would become entangled in the tines of the clod-breaking  implement pulled by horses across ploughed fields: the harrow (and the horse) would have to be 'rested' while the weeds were removed.
And the frothy yellow blossom of lady's bedstraw gave a pleasant fragrance to the herbal stuffing of mattresses before we had sprung and foam-filled versions.

We are fortunate in Europe that common names for plants and animals  are both linguistically diverse and ancient. In the New World  it's very different and  now some people are struggling with the fact that explorers and colonisers named so many of the unfamiliar species they encountered  after their own (white, male) selves. 
A new initiative proposes to change that. The reactions to this proposal are, as you might imagine, mixed, if the comments are anything to go by.

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