Old Man’s Beard or Traveller’s Joy (clematis vitalba)
A native perennial found in hedgerows, wood edges and scrub, it may be a beautiful plant, but it was said to do the Devil’s work for him by trailing into the other plants and choking them. Used medicinally in homeopathic preparations for rheumatism and skin eruptions, the plant contains protoanemonin and ingestion leads to severe abdominal pain and gastrointestinal irritation. Contact can cause skin irritation, which is why it was known as herbe aux gueux (‘beggar’s weed’) in France, having once been used by beggars to irritate the skin in order to simulate sores. The acrid smell of the foliage causes profuse watering of the eyes and nose when inhaled.
Magical propensities: None found.