Monday, 25 July 2016

The Blessings of Hederows

Sometimes, not very often - because I feel so out of place there, I go to a city. I'm seldom there for long; I don't like the hustle and jostle, the noise and the smells and I easily become overwhelmed by what feels to me like an exhausting, teeming soup of human emotions. 
On the way home, even if it's only been a few hours, I feel as if I'm seeing the hedgerows again after long absence. I'm so happy to see them, the flowers, the green, the trees. I notice more at these times perhaps, than I do on an average day. 

The incredible feathery beauty of Mugwort.  Drink this if you want to dream.

I love the huge variety in the flowers of the roadside - especially the ones with incredibly un-romantic names like 'Hog Weed'. The flowers of this plant are simply stunning, as are the seeds, but the leaves justify the name. 

Look, but don't touch. If you don't know what you're looking at you could mistake this plant for some of it's very poisonous cousins. The sap from the stem of  Giant Hog Weed can cause terrible burns and make your skin photosensitive for life. Hemlock is a deadly poisonous relation who could look very similar if you only half look.  

In theory Hog Weed itself is edible; you can eat the young leaves cooked or raw and can create a kind of sugar from the sap in the stem. You can also eat the roots, but I have to admit that I wouldn't try. Even though I'm pretty confident that this is Hog Weed and not Giant Hog Weed or Hemlock, I'm not prepared to stake my life on it - and that's what you'd be doing if you chose to eat this particular plant! 

I'm so grateful that the hedgerows are not just the beautiful parentheses to the lane that takes me home, they are also my medicine chest. Few things here are really poisonous and many are balm for the returning wanderer's body as well as soul. This one is Valerian, beloved friend to the sleepless.

Here is Feverfew - the best migraine cure I've ever come across. The pink flowers are Red Campion.  

Honeysuckle, amazing for treating sore throats and bringing down a temperature by encouraging sweating. Although you do also have to be careful with this one - apparently some of the the kinds of honeysuckle that have been imported for people's gardens can be poisonous, so make sure you're using our native yellow honeysuckle.  If you've been walking past the same honeysuckle winding it's way with unruly abandon through the same hedge for decades you're probably safe enough, but if you don't know - please ask a herbalist. 

Greater Plaintain or Way Bread grows everywhere here, as does it's sister Lesser Plaintina or Ribwort. Both these plants are as extraordinary in their efficacy and multiplicity of medicinal uses as those other unruly weeds dandelion and nettle. 

Dear, lovely, underrated Nettle. All those seeds are sooo good for you. This much maligned feral beauty, impudent migrant and ignorer of boundaries, is perhaps the most necessary ally of all for our burned out western bodies. Nettle seeds are deeply nourishing and restorative to the kidneys and the adrenals, and who amongst us has not overused their adrenal glands this year? 

Again - a warning - please don't just eat handfulls of nettle seeds for a boost and carry on, firstly you might not get any sleep, as boost you they will. But also, if your adrenals really do need supporting then taking a few nettle seeds won't cut it. You need to make radical lifestyle changes - become the native plant; live in the place that suits your needs, blossom and flower in the appropriate season and then gracefully rest a while before doing it all again. Easy peasy! 
Clearly I jest, but isn't that the root of it? We so need to re-connect ourselves to ourselves, to the land and all our relations. We need to re-align ourselves with the seasons, Her Ways. 

We forget that we are children of the earth.

Sometimes we need things that make us remember. We need to look in a scruffy old hedgerow and see the magics and wonders there and remember to be connected to the body of the Earth, the body of all bodies on this earth and our own bodies. 


  1. We have different nettles here in Norfolk, each nettle plant has it's own root....just like dandelions or daisies. I remember when I was gardening on Dartmoor heaving a whole nettle root system out in one go. It filled the wheelbarrow and then some, and I was glad the nettle plants growing from that creeping root system were all still too tiny to be more than a small sting hazard!! Looking forward to seeing you at the week-end.

    1. Apparently there are nettles that are annuals and nettles that are perennials - so presumably those lovely extensive root networks belong to the perennials and the one's you are finding in Norfolk are annuals? Such amazing plants. Looking forward to seeing you at the weekend hugely.