Thursday, 28 March 2013

The plants of Easter

Posted by  Dr Seona Anderson

Dressing down the Loch Shiel aspen.
Several of our native wild plants are associated with the Biblical traditions of Easter and Easter celebrations.

Ever since Christianity was adopted in the British Isles there has been the problem of finding substitutes for the palm leaves used to celebrate Palm Sunday or the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. Willow branches are one of the more common substitutes but yew and juniper have been used also. Because of this the day has also been known as Yew or Branch Sunday.

There is a widespread tradition that aspen (Populus tremula) was the wood useFlora Celtica (Milliken & Bridgewater 2004) records an old traditon regarding a veteran aspen tree in a hidden glen between Shuna and Saint Finnan’s Isle on Loch Shiel. On Good Friday people gathered to give the tree a formal dressing down for its part in the crucifiction of Jesus.
d to make the cross on which Christ was crucified and that its leaves still tremble at this memory in shame.

The redshank (Persicaria maculosa) is called Lus chrann ceusaidh (herb of the tree of crucifiction) in Gaelic. This stems from the legend that it grew at the foot of the cross: when drops of blood fell upon its leaves they became spotted with red. There is also a medieval tradition that after betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, Judas Iscariot hung himself from an elder tree.

On a lighter note, the beautiful Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) is named after the feast of Pasques/Pâques (French for Easter) because it flowers during this period. Alternatively it may be because its flowers were used to dye Easter eggs. The Pasqueflower is the county flower of Cambridge and Hertfordshire. You can find out what your county's is here.

No comments:

Post a Comment