Time flies. In the Northern Hemisphere, we're well into spring. Summer's just around the corner. The warmer temperatures might be a welcome change from the freezing temperatures of winter, but they come with a price: pollen. Ask anyone who suffers from seasonal allergies—the irritated eyes, the coughing, and the sneezing are no one's idea of fun.
But there is a silver lining. Nature is emerging from hibernation. Flowers are blooming. Trees are bursting with new green leaves. Warm weather means the ground can be worked, making it easy for home gardeners to sow seeds for a fruit and vegetable bounty later this year.
Related: 8 Superstitions with Spooky Origins
Like all things, however, this annual cycle of reemergence comes with a few superstitions. So let's take a look at some of the beliefs we associate with gardens, plants, and greenery everywhere.
We might consider these buzzing insects something to be avoided. Who wants to be stung by one? If you're someone unfortunate enough to have a bee sting allergy, a close encounter might necessitate the use of an EpiPen.
Despite this, bees play an important role in pollination. Without them, we wouldn't get to enjoy lots of delicious produce every summer. Given the historical importance of bees, it goes without saying that they're associated with a few superstitions.
Did you know you're supposed to talk to bees? In fact, you need to tell them everything that's going on in your household. Not because they're nosy, but because the conversation makes them happy. Happy bees are more productive, and productive bees make more honey.
This relationship takes a morbid turn when someone in the household dies. You must tell the bees immediately or they might die too. Whether this is a sign of heartbreak and grief or an indication of the supernatural connection between household members and bees, no one can seem to agree.
In addition to being a delicious culinary herb, fennel has another use as a protective plant. Hanging fennel over your doorway supposedly prevents witches and demons from entering your home. You can even place fennel seeds in keyholes and other small openings to prevent determined evil spirits from sneaking in. What a versatile herb to keep on hand!
Did you know this popular herb has a bad reputation in European folklore? According to traditional beliefs, parsley belonged to the devil. Infamous for its low germination rates, people used to say parsley had to travel between the devil and your garden seven times before it'd grow. Any seeds that didn't sprout were said to have been kept by the devil himself.
This is an example of a pervasive regional belief that doesn't necessarily apply to other parts of the world. As someone who lives in USDA Hardiness Zone 7A, I've never had any problems growing parsley. If anything, it tends to take over my herb garden.
Today, foxglove is infamous for being toxic if consumed, but people used to associate the plant with faeries. In fact, it's believed the plant's name has nothing to do with foxes at all. Instead, it might be derived from "folks' glove."
What do "folks" have to do with anything? It was once considered rude and dangerous to refer to faeries directly, so people would call them the Good Folk instead. Faeries supposedly lived within foxglove flowers. People even believed the plant would tilt toward any faerie passing by. In reality, this quirk has nothing to do with supernatural creatures. Foxglove is heliotropic, which means it moves toward the sun.
Faeries weren't the only ones connected to foxglove. Witches could make a concoction from the plant that granted the ability to fly. Alas, this purported ability may have less to do with the actual magical properties of foxglove and more to do with it being a hallucinogen. It is a poison, after all. So rather than conferring the actual ability to fly, people simply might think they can fly.
Long considered to be a magical tree, rowans can supposedly protect you from evil. People used to recommend that you build a cradle from rowan wood to keep the infant child safe from witches and evil spirits. Similarly, planting a rowan tree near your front door kept ill-intent and black magic from entering your home. If you combined rowan trees with fennel, it sounds like you could have a bonafide sanctuary on your hands.
Banana trees may not be associated with anything malevolent in some parts of the world, but that's not so in Southeast Asia. Some Asian cultures believe that vampires live in banana trees during the day. Common advice warns never to walk through a field of banana trees at night, because you're risking a vampire attack. While that may be true, there are also more practical reasons for not traipsing through such a field in the dark. More than meeting a vampire, you're likely to be bitten by a snake.
While rowan trees are famous for their alleged protective qualities, elder trees have a more mixed reputation. Some people believe elder trees have traits like those of rowans, but many others think the opposite.
Related: 9 Famous Witches Throughout History
In these traditions, elder trees don't repel witches. Witches live inside them. Therefore, it's not a good idea to build a crib from elder wood because the resident witch will now have access to your baby. And that's only if the witch doesn't wreak havoc upon you when you cut down her tree in the first place. But to be fair to the witch, wouldn't you be angry if someone tore down your home while you were living inside it?
Found in the Philippines, balete trees are a member of the strangler fig family. Like other members of their species, they start life by growing on other trees, only to entrap them and eventually kill them. The death of the host tree leaves an internal chamber of sorts.
As a result, according to Filipino folklore, many supernatural beings use the balete tree as their home. These creatures include the giant kapre, the man-horse hybrid known as tikbalang, or the nature spirits collectively known as diwata. Needless to say, it's a good idea to give balete trees a wide berth. You never know if someone—or something—might be living inside.
A staple of the modern horror genre, scarecrows serve a purpose beyond being a convenient host for demonic possession, camouflage for serial killers, or creepy jump scares for kids running through a corn maze. Their original purpose is to scare away birds and other creatures that want to eat your crops. It's in the name.
But do you know why you always see scarecrows wearing clothes and a hat? It's because you need to treat them well. Otherwise, all that hard work you put into raising your crops will go to waste and they’ll wither away and die.
It's also bad luck to wear any clothes that have been put on a scarecrow. So don't put the best items from your wardrobe on a scarecrow, and don't give any clothes that have been worn by a scarecrow to anyone else. Unless they're your enemy, of course.
As you can see, there are many beliefs associated with plants and trees. So take care the next time you're working in your garden or taking a walk through a forest. You never know who, or what, you might encounter.