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David Watson Hood, visual artist.
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Red campion: Silene dioica - (L.)Clairv. synonyms: Lychnis dioica - L. Lychnis diurna - Sibth. Melandrium dioicum - (L.)Casson.&Germaine Melandrium rubrum. Adders' Flower, Bachelor's buttons, Billy buttons, Bird's eye, Bob Robin, Brid een, Bull rattle, Bull's eye, Cancer, Cock Robin, Cuckoo flower, Cìrean coileach (coxcomb), Devil's flower, Dolly winter, Drunkards, Fleabites, Gipsy-flower, Gramfer-greygles, Mary's Rose, Morning campion, Mother-dee, Mother-die, Red butcher, Red Jack, Red Riding Hood, Red Robin Hood, Robin flower, Robin Hood, Robin redbreast, Robin-in-the-hedge, Robin's eye, Robin's flower, Robroys, Jack-by-the-Hedge, Red campion, Red Mintchop, Sarah Janes, Scalded Apples, Soldiers' Buttons, Wake Robin.


red campionOne of our more showy wild flowers with a very long flowering season, almost from the beginning of spring till November, without it our roadsides would be much duller. Like us this species has individuals of separate gender where it grows with other species of campion they tend to hybridise easily.

In folklore it has been associated with snakes, devils, goblins and death. In some places it was believed that picking campion would cause your parents death. Where scorpions were a problem it offered some protection against their stings, throwing the plant at a scorpion was thought to render the creature harmless (not of course in Scotland and if you held the previous belief I suppose it would be better to already be an orphan). I suspect this is just cod folklore along the lines of, putting salt on a chicken's tail in order to catch it. In other words if you see the scorpion in time to pick flowers to throw at it, it is not going to sting you anyway.

How did this plant that makes our dual carriageway so much more attractive, get such negative associations. I think the answer may lay in the farmers' forest fear, the tree terror of those who rebelled against the hunters' ways and cut down the sacred groves. Since the cultural change of the Neolithic the greatest alteration there has ever been in human attitudes we have all carried a burden of guilt for our sin against the pre-agrarian ancestors that makes us fear their spirits, since then we have not matured much at all. We have instead become stuck in an ever intensifying spiral of collective adolescent destructive violence in a futile attempt to find a concept of identity. Creating ever more ridiculous and competing, self justifying descriptions of what it means to be human. Campion likes the woodlands edge and fertile soil. It would grow at the liminal point, between new plough land and ancient forest, between the new and old descriptions of existence.

Non-medical uses of red campion
This plants saponin content means the root can be used as a soap substitute for washing clothes etc. The soap is obtained by simmering the root in hot water. White campion has similar properties.

Medicinal uses of red campion
Although not currently regarded as a useful medical herb, there are ethno botanical references to its use against cancer and also being used for snake bites (the crushed seeds), also for corns and warts I have know idea if any of these uses had any effect. This plant contains saponins. A type of compound that is usually considered slightly toxic although they also occur at low levels in some staple foods i.e. many beans.

Sources:
Plants For A Future, www.pfaf.org/index.html,
Flora Celtica, www.floraceltica.com/, Flora Celtica is an international project based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, documenting and promoting the knowledge and sustainable use of native plants in the Celtic countries and regions of Europe.
The Pharmaceutical Journal Vol 278 No 7457 p744 http://www.pjonline.com/Editorial/20070623/comment/onlooker.html

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