Herb of the Week for 27th April
By Lynn Kirkland
Plant protection from
lightening, witches, fire and the plague.
Walking past All Saints Church a few
weeks ago I looked up and saw a plant
growing in the gutter above the entrance.
I was intrigued to see that it was a variety
of the Sempervivum family of succulents,
commonly called Houseleek.
Sempervivum comes from the Latin, semper-always
and vivum meaning living. This could be
because the plant can grow in very arid
conditions but also has the ability to
adapt to more moist positions as well.
I knew that there was an association of
this plant being used to protect the building
from lightening strike and wondered if
it had been planted on the church roof
for that purpose. Perhaps there is a parishioner
who can let me know if and when it was
Charlemagne (742-814 A.D.) was such a
believer in the protective nature of Houseleek;
he demanded the plants be grown on every
rooftop. He was sure that this plant had
magical powers to protect from lightening,
witches and fire.
A variety of houseleek was also eaten
to protect from the plague.
The gel inside the leaf was also used
for wounds and sores, similar to the way
aloe vera is now used.
Houseleek leaf was split open and bound
to corns or warts as a cure for these
The family of sempervivums come in different
colours and sizes and look fantastic growing
in a pot. They grow close together with
their rosettes of leaves making wonderful
They do flower however they are often
grown more for their foliage.
Not many people will plant these on their
roof nowadays so it was very interesting
to see it adorning the gutter on All Saints