Lads Love

A well-known name given to SOUTHERNWOOD (Artemisia abrotanum). There have been a number of attempts to explain the name, one being the use of an ointment that young men used to promote the growth of a beard (Leyel. 1937). That was certainly done, for we have Gerard's prescription: "the ashes of burnt Southernwood, with some kind of oyle that is of thin parts ... cure the pilling of the hairs of the head, and make the beard to grow quickly". The likeliest explanation seems to lie in the courting customs of Fenland youths, described by Porter. 1969. A few sprigs of the plant were generally added to the nosegay that courting youths used to give the girls, and the plant was quite prominent in other customs in that area. A youth would cut a few sprigs to put in his buttonhole. He used to walk, sniffing ostentatiously at his buttonhole, through groups of girls. If the girls went by and took no notice, he knew he would have to try again, but if they turned and walked slowly back towards him, then he knew they had noticed his Lad's Love. He would then take his buttonhole and give it to the girl of his choice. If she was willing, she would also smell the southernwood, and the two would set out together on their first country walk.

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