Wednesday, 25 March 2009

More about Orpine

GTM's comment yesterday about the "Livelong" name of the Orpine has led me to do some research, and I am amazed to find that it is just one of many names for this familiar plant. I say familiar, because its very close relative grows in our gardens as the Ice Plant - properly called Sedum spectabile in its 'tame' form. The wild form is Sedum telephium. Otherwise known as Livelong, Midsummer Men, Vazey flower, Alpine Broklimbe, Arpent or Arpent-weed, Harping Johnny, Jacob's Ladder, Lib-long, Orphan John, Orpies, Orall, Solomon's Puzzles. Arpent, etc., is a variant of Orpine, and Harping is probably a corruption of the same.

It has a rich folk-lore: "The people of the country delight much to set it in pots and shelles on Midsomer even, or upon timber slates or trenchers daubed with clay, and so to set or hang it up in their houses, whereas it remayneth greene a long season, and groweth if it be sometimes over sprinckled with water". And hence the name Midsummer Men. Orpies is a contraction for Orpine, and Orpy leaves were said to be good for wounds. The name Orpine was given first of all to yellow-flowered species, hence its origin. In Chaucer's day they called it Ornal.

Orpine was used as a charm against lightning. With St. John's Wort it was hung over the doorways to scare away witches. Formerly, too, it was employed as a love-charm."

Extract above taken from:


  1. Amazing! I love reading this sort information about wild plants. It fires up the pagan in me!



  2. Ah thankyou BB! I havent seen any round here but will keep my eyes out next time I go up on the Ridge as there may be some along there.So its a relation of the glorious sedum Ice plant,My autumn glories were stunning in the corner bed last year,its one of my favourite plants :O)
    How lovely to think of country folk gathering this stuff to decorate their homes with!
    GTM x

  3. Somehow, knowing the name [names] of plants, birds, animals and some of the lore traditionally surrounding them [inaccurate as it may prove to be] makes life more interesting. I have to confess that folklore stays with me better than more scientific data.

  4. Sharon - I'm going back to Marsh Marigold later on today or tomorrow, and let you know more about that.

    GTM - hope you find it growing where you are. The British Wild Flowers book link I gave above is fairly specific about where it's found growing - not in S. Somerset for example - but it doesn't mention it growing in Carmarthenshire and it is reasonably common locally.

    hen - glad you're all fired up!

  5. BB I'm so enjoying these posts - I definitely look for new things when I'm out walking now! It's amazing just how much you can find.

    (For some reason, my laptop won't let me post comments here, but now I've reclaimed the pc from the rest of the family I can comment again!!)

    Willow xx