Dear Readers, I was rather taken with this pretty little plant when I spotted it at the cemetery last week. I have been thinking about getting some for the edges of the pond: it likes damp conditions and shade, which is just about perfect. It’s a member of the primrose family, though it superficially resembles a buttercup, and is a native plant, found mostly in the south of England. It’s also known as ‘moneywort’, probably because of its golden flowers and round leaves: its Latin name ‘nummularia’ also means ‘like a coin’.
Creeping Jenny is also known as ‘herb twopence’, probably because of the leaves laying two by two along the stem. It was felt to be a most beneficial plant, one of the very best for treating wounds, and useful also for scurvy and haemorrhage. Boiled with wine and honey, it was believed to be a useful treatment for whooping cough. In Chinese traditional medicine it’s used to treat kidney and urinary stones, and it’s also said to be useful in the alleviation of gout.
Snakes were said to seek out the plant when they were in need of medicine, and yet another alternative name for it is ‘serpentaria’. I wonder if grass snakes, with their love of water and damp places, were often seen in association with the plant? This is often how these connections are made.
When burned, creeping Jenny was thought to deter insects and vermin in the house. Nobody will admit to actually eating the plant, but you can make a tea from its flowers and leaves.
A garland of creeping Jenny laid across the shoulders of yoked oxen is said to have made them work more peacefully together. As part of the loosestrife family (along with spotted loosestrife), it is said to generally increase serenity and lessen conflict, something that could come in very handy.
You may also have seen this golden version of creeping Jenny, which seems to be particularly popular for container displays.
And finally, a poem. I rather liked this recent work by American poet Jack Ridl, published in Reformed Journal. I hope he has better luck with the sweet woodruff than I did, though.
by Jack Ridl
And the angel said unto thee, Go thou
into your garden and plant Creeping Jenny,
alyssum, Sweet Woodruff to crawl across
the earth, and herbs to bring culinary alchemy
into each and every meal: oregano, rosemary,
lemon balm, chives, sage, and thyme. Then
set deep into the soil two wisteria vines, three
redbud trees, a butterfly bush, lupines, salvia,
zinnias, a hundred zinnias. Wait for the bees.
Wait for the 20,000 kinds of bees, from bumble
to honey to mason. Watch how they live in
harmony, all humming as if they can trust
one another and the petals, stamens, the ways
the flowers make their indifferent offerings
of pollen. Genuflect to the bees that ye may
eat of the fruit of the land. Be ever humble
in your unknowing. Learn the intelligence
of worm, vole, sparrow, spider, how none
needs even a holy word to linger and
work, becoming nothing more than what
they are under the benign disregard of sky,
the unpredictable nonchalance of weather.
Photo One by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons