British Mary Plants

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U.K. Flowers of Our Lady

The following is a list of medieval Flowers of Our Lady from surviving oral popular religious traditions of the UK countrysides.

The primary sources are Britten and Holland's Dictionary of English Plant Names (1886) and Grigson's An Englishman's Flora (1958) both based on local texts and oral traditions. Britten and Holland's listing is alphabetical; Grigson's listing is by botanical family, with information of the county location(s) in which each name was found to be current.

An additional source is Dowling's The Flowers of the Sacred Nativity (1900) based on a survey of religious and folklore texts for shrubs and trees associated with religious customs and celebrations.

Religiously named flowers introduced from other countries are not included here, except for a few whose names have become current in the UK, such as Ladies' Eardrops (Fuchsia) and the Passion Flower. Special mention should be made of the National Collection of Passiflora in Bristol, documented, with exquisite photographs, by John Vanderplank in Passion Flowers (Second Edition), MIT Press, 1996.

Other, secondary, sources are:

The Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition, 1985), which contains the notation under "Lady":

"In names of plants Lady's. . .is in origin a shortening of Our Lady's and became familiar through the 16th ccentury herbalists. In more recent times, ladies' has in some cases been substituted, the change being perhaps assisted by the old spelling ladies of the possessive singular. The designation is usually given to plants of a more than usual beauty or delicacy. (Cf. G. Marien-, frauen-, and F. de notre Dame.)",

The Mary Calendar by Judith Smith (1930), which is included because it is the source of the list of plants desired for the planting by Frances Crane Lillie of Our Lady's Garden at the Angelus Tower of St. Joseph's Church in Woods Hole, on Cape Cod, Massachsetts, USA in 1932 - the mother garden of the contemporary Mary Garden restoration movement. Smith's listing is by bloom time through the year.

Also included is the list of the plants "associated by tradition and legend with the Blessed Virgin Mary" planted in beds of the cloister garden of The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Lincoln, by John Codrington of the Lincoln Herb Society in 1979.

This composite listing is made alphabetically by botanical name, and includes listings of multiple religious names for the same plant where they occur. Columns (B)ritten, (C)odrington, (D)owling, (G)rigson, (O)xford, and (S)mith indicate the sources in which they are found. Also given is the primary source from which each listing has been obtained.

Many of the UK religious flower names are paralleled by similar names in the oral religious traditions of other countries, such as France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the Latin American mission countries - which are, or will be, listed in other studies on this web site. Contemporary Mary Gardens typically draw on plant materials from all these traditions to provide for horticultural and theological comprehensiveness, not limited to the plants of any one tradition.

A unique aspect of the old religious flower names from the UK, as can be seen from the list, is that they preponderantly refer to Our Lady, and in this to her motherhood at the Nativity and in her envisaged life at Nazareth - to her person, her garments and her household articles. In this there is a striking correspondence with old Marian English poetry, which is most sublime in its praises of Mary's maidenly spirituality and her Divine Maternity. No doubt there are also correspondences here to the calling of England "Our Lady's Dowery", and to the spirituality of Walsingham.

As each of the nations glorifies God and the Salvation of the World in a special way, England, as reflected in its religious flower symbolism, offers the world a special sense of the Nativity of Christ, of Mary's Divine Maternity, and of the way to Jesus through Mary's Joyful Mysteries.

It is to other traditions - those of France, Germany, Spain and Latin America - that we turn for additional flower symbols of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, and of the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of Our Lady.


References:

BRITT - Britten and Holland, A Dictionary of English Plant Names, Trubner, London, England, l878

CODRIGTON - Codrington, John, The Plants of the Cloister Gardens, Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln, England, 1979

DOWLING - Dowling, Alfred E.P. Raymond; The Flora of the Sacred Nativity; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd, London, England, 1900

GRIGSON - Grigson, Geoffrey, The Englishman's Flora, Phoenix House Ltd, London, England, 1958

OXFORD - The Oxford Dictionary, Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, 2nd Edition, 1989

SMITH - Smith, Judith, The Mary Colendar, St.Dominic's Press, Ditchling, England, 1930


flower list of British Mary plants


The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.

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