Dandelion & Sweet Briar
Dandelion & Sweet Briar
Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, consisting of species commonly known as dandelions. They are native to Eurasia and North America, but the two species worldwide, officinale and erythrospermum, were introduced from Europe and now propagate as wildflowers. Botanists currently divide our Dandelions into four species, but they recognise that the genus is difficult to classify, since each species includes many forms. Some can produce seeds without being fertilised. One mature flower head may bear up to 400 fruits. In one season one plant can produce about 2000. The mediaeval Latin Dens leonis provides the origin of dent de lion and Dandelion, but there was uncertainty as to which part of the plant this refers to. The jagged edged leaves, referred to as 'variously toothed', seem the most likely. The specific name officinale here and in other plants refers to the use of plants in medicine. Derived from Latin opificina, shortened to officina, was an herb store, pharmacy or drug shop. The Dandelion was diuretic and cleansing recalled in local names as Mess-abed, Pee-a-bed and Piss-abed, this even crossed to the U.S.A. Other popular names refer to the children’s game blowing the seed-heads to disperse the fruits like Clock, Farmer's Clock, Old Man's Clock and What O’clock. Enid Porter (1) records that Fenland mothers gave their children Dandelion flowers to smell on the first day of May to inhibit bed-wetting for the next twelve months. She mentions the use of their milky sap to cure warts.
Rosa rubiginosa, (sweet briar, sweetbriar rose, sweet brier or eglantine is a species of rose native to Europe and western Asia. It is a dense deciduous shrub, with the stems bearing numerous hooked prickles. The foliage has a strong apple-like fragrance. It occurs mainly in scrub rather than in hedges and is widespread in England and Wales, though local, and less common, in the west. The name Eglantine is thought by some to derive partly from the Anglo-Saxon word egla or egle, meaning a prickle or thorn and the many hooked prickles are a distinctive feature of this species. But the name Eglantine is also used for the Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) which has no thorns at all. This makes the use of the term Eglantine by poets rather ambiguous, though Shakespeare fortunately clarifies the situation in A Midsummer Night's Dream (2), where he describes the 'bank whereon the wylde thyme grows' as being 'quite over canopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk rose, and with eglantine'. Woodbine is another of the popular names for Honeysuckle, so here the distinction is clear.
(1) Porter, Enid (1909-1984) Cambridgeshire author and curator, Notebooks;
(2) Shakespeare, William (1564-1616) A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1595/6;