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By Lynn Kirkland

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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 put there.

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 unsightly problems.

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 patterns.
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 Church.


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