Plants of Time and Place
Plants are part of what connects individuals to each other, to their history and to their landscape. Some plants are very specifically associated with one particular place, for example the endemic Scots Primrose of the north coasts of Scotland, whereas others have a widespread cultural significance linking individuals and communities across many countries and continents such as the rose.
In Britain we have a generous mixture of plants associated with the very local level such as the Burry Man Celebrations of South Queensferry, to our national plants (rose, thistle, daffodil, shamrock), to the many plants that link us to Europe and other parts of the world such as the plants of Greek and Norse mythology, the plants of the Bible, the many influences of Islamic and Eastern culture and art, and the wide range of plants that have become part of our landscapes or been carried to other countries through trade and emigration.
Many of our local and national cultural associations with plants can be found in Flora Britannica (Mabey 1984), Flora Celtica (Milliken & Bridgewater 2001), the Scots Herbal (Darwin ), Plant Lore (Vickery ), The Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern Ireland (Stokes & Rodger 2004), the online Plant Lives website (www.plantlives.com). In addition each of the counties of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales has a county flower, voted for by members of the public in 2002 (link to Plantlife county flowers pages).
Many of the plants that we think of as an essential part of the British countryside have very exotic origins and cultural links in many other countries. The poppies and increasingly rare cornflowers of our arable fields were celebrated in the tomb paintings of ancient Egypt and in the death garland of Tutankhamen. The borage used by the crusaders for courage came from South Eastern Europe and our sweet chestnut trees were probably introduced in Roman times. One of the most ubiquitous designs in Britain is the willow pattern pottery inspired by Chinese porcelains and that has passed through most British homes at some point in their history. This is only one example of the many cultural interactions that continue to shape our landscape and our art.
Please download our factsheets to find out more about wild plants and their local, national and international connections.