Multi-headed Fox-and-cubs Pilosella aurantiaca c Kathy McVittie 2020

In Australia and North America this glorious plant is regarded as a serious problem, smothering other plants and tainting the hay.

Ada E. Georgia in her ‘A Manual Of Weeds: With Descriptions Of All The Most Pernicious And Troublesome Plants In The United States And Canada’ (1914) sternly instructed that:

Plants in roadsides and waste places should be looked [out] and destroyed. If possible, the sentiment of an entire neighborhood should be aroused against Orange Hawkweed, for, with a plant of this quality, the careful farmer is largely at the mercy of any slovenly cultivator who chooses to be regardless of communal welfare.

A blog-post of Ceridwen of West Wales was my starting point, and has another photo

The plant has another odd name: Grim the Collier. Uniquely, the outside of each orange head bears a pelt of black hairs, like the sooty stubble of a coal miner or dealer. ‘Grim the Collier of Croyden; or, The Devil and his Dame‘ was a play published in 1662 that drew upon a despised character in folklore and popular culture: the grimy coal merchant who cheated good folk with substandard or short-weight fuel supplies.

In ‘New Flora of the British Isles’ Clive Stace describes the capitula (daisy-like heads) of this plant (Pilosella aurantiaca) as having “ligules orange-brown to brick red. That is certainly how I saw the blooms, when they appeared in my life in three situations:

  • in the very tidy garden of our neighbour Mike (intolerant of weeds) at Ulgham (Northumberland, in early 1990s), next to the pond where I watched the darting fishes;
  • at an evening course that I was giving at Cottenham Village College in 2001 (thanks to Pip Amos who brought in a specimen for me to identify, and who called my wildlife-gardening classes “our little club”);
  • around the verges of the rural council estate where I live now, in Brora, northeast Scotland – which had a privately-owned active coal mine until 1975, with part-time colliers.

For our first activity, you know what to do. If you are new here, and unsure, why not first find an earlier Brain Dump (then labelled as “warmup”) with fuller guidance. There is also more guidance here.

Brain dump

Today I feel a bit grim about…




Today if I saw a fox and cubs I would …




Today these ten words from the Introduction speak loudest to me:

Select up to ten and write them down in order of importance, order of size, or alphabetical order. Or in dis-order if you prefer.

You get to choose.

(And there’s no significance, except to me, that I marked some worlds boldly. You’re welcome!)

Golden ThreadWork

So you might guess what the next exercise offers you – a chance to work with the selected words, which you can:

  • weave some or all of them into a story, poem, or other writing vehicle of your own, or
  • use any of them as an imaginative springboard into a daydream or doodle, aloud on paper, in whatever way you decide to wander, and with whatever tools.

Now, consider reading through what you have written today., in the spirit of curiosity and self-kindfulness.

All of it. Out loud if you like. And just for your own fox-ears at the moment (although below I invite you to share it with me by email).

Or with the ears of whatever animal (or tree, or plant, or … ) with whom you might identify today.

Which is?

Today I identify with this living or mythical being ….

signed, dated, reflected upon …

{and that feels … ?}

Further Resources

Much though I love to post extras, more extras and even extra extras here for your delection, this week it’s over to you.

Anybody who wants to share their fox-yelp or their vulpine song, I invite you to email your foxy writing to me (rather than using the Comments. Which is just for, well, comments – and they too are welcome).

Up to the end of July 2020, I’ll consider your submission (3 to 200 words) for inclusion in this space. Please date it, and use a copyright symbol and your (pen-)name at the end of your offering. Short items are most likely to find a place here, and longer ones elsewhere.

Thank you, and may the Fox be with you.