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As part of this project, I am studying the origins of several archaic plant names that have been discovered in historical documentary sources dating from the 12th to the 16th centuries. These include a royal charter, Chaucerian manuscripts, medical treatises and even a traditional folk song. Whilst my colleagues and I have successfully attributed particular species to many of these old plant references, a number of them remain elusive.
Although the names of interest are no longer in widespread use, it is not uncommon for ancient names to persist for many centuries as regionalised colloquial terms - sometimes even into the modern era. For that reason we would like to ask whether any of the forum members here happen to recall hearing variations of these old plant names as youngsters.
However, before you read our list, I must issue a warning: we believe that some of the names have sexual connotations. This is probably one of the reasons they have fallen out of common use. I apologise if you might find these names embarrassing or offensive; and if you feel that this is likely, I would respectfully request that you do not read the remainder of this posting.
We think that some plants may have borne a resemblance to certain body parts, whilst others seem to have been used as remedies for various kinds of sexual malaise (we have evidence, for example, that at least one plant was used to treat erectile dysfunction - its rigid stem being used as a form of splint).
Notwithstanding these taboo connotations, we believe that the first two plant names, Cock-in-the-Fold and Strumpet's Funnel, have non-sexual origins, deriving, respectively from a poultry pen and a trumpet-shaped flower.
Several of the names in the following list appear in our source documents in their Middle English spelling, but we have "modernised" them here into the form that we believe they would have had, had they persisted into the twentieth (or twenty-first) century. The full list is:
2. Strumpet's Funnel (probably has a purple horn or bell-shaped flower)
3. Landlord's Welcome
4. Ragged Hrymm-wort (Hrymm probably meant 'rim', and we think this may have referred to a cave entrance or similar shaded place) - aka Hairy Ringwort
5. Squire's Tongue (may be the same species as above)
6. Golden Rod
7. Golden Finger
8. Fairy's Fist
9. Woody Wiltwort (known to have been used to treat erectile dysfunction)
10. Shepherd's Pleasure
11. Horny Goat Spurge (possibly the same species as above)
12. Gypsies' Lips
13. Old Man's Purse
If anyone can provide a species attribution (either Linnaean or colloquial) or, indeed, any other credible information about these plants or their "folk names", we would be happy to cite you as a source in the team's forthcoming publications. Please PM me if you would like your name to be recorded, otherwise (with the forum administrator's permission) we would be happy simply to cite your Username and this forum.
Thank you for taking the time to read this request.
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