Plant & flower notes, foraging in Wicklow with Valentina


Valentina Barcelloni Corte is an inhabitant and lover of the Hedge. In the tradition of European cunning folk - through her connection to the green world and its inherent wisdom and beauty, she strives to learn how to be in right relation with land, ancestors and kin (human, and more than human). 

She believes that conscious foraging puts one back in touch with the inherently human ability to hear the land speak.


Sweet Woodruff - Gallium Odorata

Other names include: Bedstraw, Asperula Odorata

Name:The name “woodruff” is believed to come from the Old English “wudorof”, which referred to a forest, referring to the plant’s association with woodland environments. The species name “odorata” means “fragrant”. This refers to the plant’s distinctive sweet, vanilla-like fragrance.

Description:Perennial growing to 45 cm. Has a square stem, whorls of narrow elliptical leaves, and small white flowers. It is native to Europe’s woodlands and shaded places. 

Medicinal & Folk uses: Sweet woodruff is considered tonic, with significant diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects. Its coumarin and flavonoid constituents make it helpful for varicose veins and phlebitis. It has been used as an antispasmodic, and it is given to children and adults for insomnia. When it dries, sweet woodruff takes on the scent of newly cut grass, and it has often been placed between clothes to impart its aroma. In hisIrish Herbalof 1735, K’Eogh records that “It is good in healing wounds if bruised and then applied, and also in curing boils and inflammations.” 

Edible uses: Leaves - raw or cooked. They are coumarin-scented (like freshly mown hay), used as a flavouring in cooling drinks and are also added to fruit salads etc. A fragrant and delicious tea is made from the green-dried leaves and flowers. Slightly wilted leaves are used, the tea has a fresh, grassy flavour. The sweet-scented flowers are eaten or used as a garnish.

Energetic: A homeopathic remedy made from the plant is used in the treatment of inflammation of the uterus.

Plant Lore: In Germany and AlsaceMaiwein, made of the leaves steeped in white wine, is an aromatic tonic drunk to celebrate May Day.


Welsh Wildflower Poppy - Papaver Cambricum

Other names include:llsiau cwsg,Sleep Herb

Name:The specific epithet cambricum means 'Welsh', from the Latinized form of Cymru, the Welsh name for Wales. 

Description: The yellow Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica) is a species of perennial flowering plant in the family Papaveraceae. The plant is native to the shady, hilly and rocky woodlands of Wales and parts of western England. Its lively silk-crepe blooms in shades of yellow, ever-so-slightly edged in orange, float on 1-foot stems. Self-sows...thankfully! Creates a light and lovely atmosphere in the shade garden.

Medicinal & Folk uses: It has a long history of medicinal use and is commonly known as llsiau cwsg, the herb of sleep, in Wales. It was used to treat a variety of conditions including pain, inflammation, and fever.

Plant Lore: Although the Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica) is somewhat different than the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), it too is associated with sleep, dreams, the spirit world, and various forms of divination. Yellow poppies must never be brought into the house -- they will cause headaches, storms, or lightning strikes -- but wild poppy seeds placed under a pillow will show a young man or maid their future lover's face, or give the dreamer the answer to any question posed while falling asleep. The seeds can also be carried in one's pocket, or strewn in a circle around one's home, to provide protection from faery enchantments, especially those that cause confusion or memory loss.


Lilac - Syringa Vulgaris

Description: the Latin name of the lilac flower is Syringa Vulgaris, and it’s a flowering plant in the olive family. This popular garden plant originated in the mountains of Eastern Europe. The flowers appear in various shades of violet in the spring and are edible, but even one single flower is a flavor exploding experience with slight astringency (drying to tissues), almost bitter, and very floral.

Medicinal and Folk Uses: Medicinally, it is used as a vermifuge and as a malaria treatment. The leaves are bitter and febrifuge tonics. The buds and flowers relax the muscles and free the spinal canals. Mother tincture or glyceric maceration: nerve pinching in the spine, sciatica, various discomforts and pains of vertebral origin.

Energetic Use:  release of present or past blockages. Helps with the flow of vital energy.

Edible Uses: The flowers of lilac are edible and can be used in salads, desserts, and as a garnish. They have a sweet, floral flavor and can be used fresh or dried. They can be candied and used as a garnish or turned into a beautiful jelly, or even ice cream.

Tea: Lilac flowers can be used to make a tea that is said to have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. The tea can be made by steeping the flowers in hot water and straining the mixture.

The cooled infusion can also be used as a hair rinse to add shine and color to hair. 

Candy: Lilac flowers can be used to make candied flowers that can be used as a garnish or added to desserts.


Lilac Honey Recipe:

Jar size of choice

Local, pure honey

Freshly picked lilac flowers

Fill the jar with freshly picked flowers with a little room at the top. Pour over honey to the top and cap. Allow the honey to infuse for at least 6 weeks. No need to strain it afterward – eat the flowers along with the honey!


Plant Lore: They typically appearbetween Beltane andLitha, the summer solstice. Lilacs have come to be associated withbanishing and getting rid of negative energies–and that may well be due to its strong but light fragrance. Plant lilacs around your property to keep out those who might do you harm, or cut some to keep indoors as a way of preventing malevolent spirits, or other ghosts and haunts, from hanging around. The tree is well respected and honored by the Orthodox Christians and its Greek Name “pashalia” derives from the word “Pasha” which in Jewish means “passage”. The tree is linked with reincarnation and life and one of the secrets and wonders of Lilac is that its flowers do not fade under hot water.


Spruce tips

With the exception of yew trees, most conifer tips are edible and packed with medicine, including vitamin C and have historically been consumed to curb hunger. They range in flavor from sweet and citrusy to bitter and sour.

I love the citrus flavor of spruce and fir tips and look forward to collecting the emergent glowing green tips in the spring and summer months, but winter & fall collecting will also work. Foraging for spruce and fir is wonderful way to connect with the trees and landscape where you are in the world. Pine would also work for these, but make sure you are not harvesting yew, as it is poisonous. I never remove too many tips from any single tree, as this is the new growth. When harvesting in the winter or fall, the tips will not be as bright green, but they still contain high amounts of Vitamin C and other pathogen-fighting properties. 

Edible Uses:You can eat them raw, make tea with them, grind them together with sugar (half and half usually works) to make a powder to sprinkle over cakes, or preserve all the vitamins found in fresh pine needles by soaking them in apple cider vinegar for six weeks. 


Pine-Needle Lemonade Recipe (from Adele Nozedar Foraging with Children)

A refreshingly unusual drink 

Makes 1.51 (52fl oz/6½ cups)

juice of 3 lemons (or a mixture of lemons and limes)

150ml (5fl oz/½ cup) maple syrup

1.251 (40fl oz/5 cups) hot water

2 fresh young pine tips (can be from any spruce, pine or fir tree) ice, to serve

1 Put the lemon/lime juice in a jug, add the maple syrup and hot water and whisk to combine. Pour into two sterilized 750-ml (26-fl oz) bottles with lids (see p.222).

Allow to cool, then add the young pine, spruce or fir tips. Leave to infuse for at least 3 hours, then serve over ice. It will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.


Sweet Violet - Viola Odorata

Description: Violets are native perennials and will come back year after year in the same place. The fragrant violet grows in carpets and it forms colonies.  

It is found in partially shaded places: undergrowth and forest edges, meadows, hedges and bushes, roadsides, vineyards, and also close to homes.

It has heart-shaped leaves and 5 free petals with dark veins. Leaves are best harvested before and during the flowering period. Flowers can be harvested whenever they are blooming.

Medicinal and Folk Uses: Violet is a key herb for gentle lymphatic stimulation and is beloved for its profound demulcent and emollient properties. Violet encourages gentle lymphatic stimulation and can be consumed as a tea, tincture, or used externally. It is a standard addition to breast massage balms for this reason. When a moistening herb is needed, Violet is the first I think of. When taken internally, it is considered a demulcent, soothing inflammation by providing a protective film over the mucous membranes. Externally, it is considered an emollient because of its ability to soothe and soften the skin.

Edible Uses: All species of violets (Viola spp.) are edible. The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw and cooked. Raw flowers decorate salads and flavor desserts. Cooked flowers can be used in floral jams or candied in sugar to make sweets or syrups. The flower buds flavor fruit juices or vinegar, and are used to make syrups and herbal teas. 

The leaves and young shoots of the fragrant violet are tender and mucilaginous in texture. They can be added raw to mixed salads or made into a juice. Cooked, they can be incorporated to vegetable dishes and soups.

Crystallized Violets: Ingredients: 100 g violets (flowers + stem); 20 cl of water; 30 g of arabic gum ; powdered white sugar. Heat the water. As soon as it begins to boil, add the gum arabic, whisking until it dissolves completely. Pour into a bowl and let cool. In a large plate, pour the sugar in a layer 5 mm thick. Dip each flower in the gum, delicately draining off the excess, then place it on the plate, covering it completely with sugar. Leave to rest for 20 minutes. Take them out by shaking them lightly by the stem. Place them on a rack to dry and cut the stems. These little candies keep for a very long time away from air and light.

Syrup:A gorgeous purple syrup can be made from an infusion of the flowers alone. Make a strong hot infusion and allow it to sit for 24 hours. Strain and combine with equal weight sugar as you heat up in a double boiler. If you have hard water, that extra alkalinity will throw off the color. Add a few drops of lemon juice to neutralize it and coax a vibrant color. This syrup can be used for coughs and is adapted to children.

Energetic Use:Violet connects us to our feelings, while simultaneously connecting us to the earth, its bounty, its foundational support: making it a beautiful companion for those who need to feel held in order to allow for their emotional bodies to express. It reminds us to release what we may have let grow stagnant or what grows in a stagnant environment in order to truly thrive.

Violet gently grounds us but also gives us a moving remedy to our inner waterways: our lymph & plasma, our emotions & feelings. It encourages us to keep those waters moving & flowing freely, unobstructed: helping to dislodge any stagnancy/blockages that may be present which contribute to feelings of despondency, sluggishness, & vague depression, or disconnect from our inner rhythmic nature.

Cooling, soothing, & relaxing violet also has an affinity for the heart & nervous system, providing a comforting compress to both of these places & a loving hand for any wounds that may persist there. The sororia species in particular allows us to feel we are part of a “sisterhood” with this plant, with the earth, with our femininity, with our ancestresses—giving further support to those who feel a lack in these areas.

Plant Lore: Violet nourishes us, it brings us down to earth. Literally: you must bend down to see it, to cup it in your hand. So you see, violet helps touch the earth, bending our knees to it in reverence.


Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Other names: Wild Anise, Fenkel

Name: The scientific name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word for eagle. This is because of the shape of the flower petals, which are said to look like an eagle’s talons. The common name Columbine comes from the Latin for “dove”, as the inverted flower petals resemble five doves clustered together.

Description: Naturally ornamental, graceful plant generally considered indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, it has followed civilization, especially where Italians have colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of the world upon dry soils near the sea-coast and upon river-banks.  The seeds are harvested in the fall.

Medicinal and Folk uses: In ancient times, fennel was highly valued for its medicinal and culinary properties. It is mentioned in the Bible, by the Greek physician Dioscorides and was a favorite of Hildegard von Bingen. The seeds have a longstanding reputation as an aid to weight loss and to longevity. Essential oil from the sweet variety is used for its digestive and relaxing properties. It also has estrogenic activity and may prove helpful in relieving menopausal symptom. 

It has great affinity to the digestive system. Fennel leaf tea can be drunk in case of acidity & indigestion, morning sickness & nausea, stomach spasm & bloating.

Edible: All you can think of! It adds a sweet anise flavor to soups and stews. It can be rubbed it on meats before grilling for added flavor. It can be infused in oil or butter. 

Wild fennel seeds are delicious in baked goods. 

It can also be pickled and used as a condiment. Slice the leaves thinly and soak them in vinegar, sugar, and spices for a few hours.

Energetic: helping to integrate life lessons, each as a layer or level of learning, until it is possible to get a fuller understanding of an experience or situation.

Plant Lore:  In mediaeval times, Fennel was employed, together with St. John's Wort and other herbs, as a preventative of witchcraft and other evil influences, being hung over doors on Midsummer's Eve to warn off evil spirits. It was likewise eaten as a condiment to the salt fish so much consumed by our forefathers during Lent.

Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica)

Other names:Mouse Ear, “Occhi di Maria”

Name: The legend says that when the Christ Child was sitting on Mary’s lap one day, he decided that the whole world should know the beautiful blue of her eyes and waved his hand and forget-me-nots sprung up. 

Description:  Star-shaped flowers in the borage family. Their flowers are borne in clusters and may be blue, white, violet or pink with bright yellow centers. 

Medicinal and Folk uses: Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) has been used in folk medicine for its astringent properties. Historically, it was used to treat wounds and certain medical conditions. The plant’s hairy stems and leaves are said to have been used to stop bleeding and reduce inflammation. Additionally, the flowers have been used to treat lung problems and nosebleeds.

Plant Lore: In medieval Germany, lovers wore forget-me-nots to ensure they would not forget each other while they were apart. 

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