Unimproved Meadow Charm
(a list to re-call)
by Amanda Edmiston
RED, AMBER, GREEN…
Rare, Vulnerable, Good to go
Offbit reliever of coughs,
Rootsbit by Satan, nettelled it dispelleth plague and pestilence.
Peggle easeth paines in the head.
Antispasmodic Key of Heaven cough soother.
Sedative Fairy Cups.
Clear-eye sootheth eyes,
Maythen doth calm and cure colds.
Daisy’s cousin, healer of bruises.
Ball of Yarn easeth odontalgia…
…Maybe essence for indecision?
Salep, roots full of strengthening demulcent
Bassorin once a nourishing drink loved by the burghers of London.
This Apothecary’s Heaven
Latin name, universal.
Folk names alongside ancient herbal uses.
Lists become poetry, have a spell-like quality, as a herbal storyteller they’re how I remember the intricacies of my work.
My centena is intended as a charm, a way of enchanting back this apothecary’s heaven.
Perusing endangered plant archives.
Familiar Chamomile at risk.
Orchids devastated by habitat loss.
Cowslip brought back from the brink.
Flagging how a lack of awareness of once vital remedies is deeply connected to our vanishing habitats.
We have lived by this floodplain meadow for seven years, the plants inform my work.
The river, peat-brown, swells with snowmelt, harbouring mountain-wash minerals. Its chill caress sprawls across the meadow’s contours, bank-edges crumble into the flow, carrying tribes of roots and seeds downstream, populating new pastures.
Days progress, river gains speed, coursing over the grassland, I watch the molehills gather pace, heading upwards towards the safety of the Alder trees, guzzling xylem protecting against the water’s onslaught.
Spring arrives, promising warmth, waters subside, Snowdrops scattering along upper paths, beneath blossoming Blackthorn. Dandelions start to roar, their bed is wet, but they counter with a flush of potassium and warm sweet nectar, nourishing early-emerging bumblebees.
Remnants of last summer’s Rosebay Willowherb, brittle-stalked fireweed, forming a maze, wending our way through, until heads of Sorrel and the first Speedwell waylay us, (harming the germander-blue heads is said to attract eye-pecking birds!). Adapting our path with the seasons, returning to the margins, watching the meadow flourish, bright with charms of Goldfinch, the fast-flowing Teith dictating our route.
May arrives, Campion brings a bold note of pink, orange-tipped butterflies flutter amongst the dancing Ox-eyes, St John’s Wort leaves add to the mosaic, blood-red perforations, oil glistening, as the midsummer sun arcs upwards. Salicylate-scented Meadowsweet, finger-like leaves burgeoning along the naked pebbles of the riverbed’s boundary. Purple sooky-soos add a suffragette clarion-call alongside mirror-verdant Alchemilla: promising female rebalancing.
As the dog-days draw children to the water, I walk inwards, cherishing seeds catching my skirts, carrying them home, sitting beneath the Birch in my garden, refusing to mow, neighbours chastising for garden rebellion. The next year, evidence of those travellers appears, Hawkbit and Vetch scramble through grasses, bone-knitting Comfrey and heart-stopping Foxgloves nod conspiratorial warnings as weedkiller is banished.
Water carries memories, the river enfolds the carse again, implanting a thousand new stories, soaking them into the seeds that replenish this apothecary’s heaven.
Take a look at The Wildlife Trusts’ meadow page to find your nearest wildlife haven or for tips on how to create your own mini-meadow.