Bluebell

(Hyacinthoides nonscripta) Bluebells are fairy flowers. In Somerset they used to say that you should never go into a wood to pick them. If you were a child you may never come out again, and if you were an adult you would be pixy-led until someone met you and took you out (Briggs. 1967), and in Devonshire it is one of the flowers thought to be unlucky to bring indoors (Devonshire Association. Transactions. vol 65; 1933). The bluebell is appropriated to St George (23 April) (Geldart), and it was once the custom, according to some, to wear bluebells on that day, and to decorate churches with them (Gordon. 1985). Surely they were not talking about this bluebell? There are other flowers with the name, Harebell for example, the Bluebell of Scotland:

On St George's Day, when blue is worn,

The blue harebells the fields adorn (Friend. 1883).

That is all very well, but harebells are not naturally in flower in April. Even Early Purple Orchids are called

Bluebells in Dorset, and so are Periwinkles. So what did they have in mind for St George's Day?

Without compromising dock's pre-eminence, they used bluebell sap to put on nettle stings in the Wye valley (Waters. 1982). Gerard listed Sea Onion as a name for this Bluebell, not because they grew by the sea, but because in his time sailors took the bulbs to sea, to be eaten like onions (Genders. 1976) (but fresh bluebell bulbs are poisonous (North).

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