Ogham & Native Florida Plants

Druidry and related paths look to plants and nature for wisdom, and the study of the Ohgam – an ancient Irish alphabet- is a worthwhile way to this wisdom. The Ohgam (or the old spelling of Ogam) dates to well before 300 C.E. and is easily carved on wood or stone.

 

Each letter (few) is linked with an Irish ‘tree’ (and/or plants we would now call bushes) and its symbolism. This basic rich plant symbolism of the fews has been expanded upon in recent centuries to include animal, healing, calendar, element, divination, astrological, and other associations.

hawthorn-5-11-12-kg-5

How to find your own Ogham

Ogham stone at Rathass Church, Tralee, Kerry, Ireland (Wikipedia)

Studying the Ogham involves finding and knowing these plants. But as many of us don’t live in northern Europe, we have to look to our own region for plants that correspond to the traditional Ogham fews. This can be as simple as finding any local tree of the same species, or a non-related plant that matches some basic features of that few. I was surprised to find many matching species for fews in the Florida region. I also tried for plants that can be reasonably easy to find, which unfortunately left out our endangered Yew and Torreya trees.

The table below shows the basic letters (including alternates), their Irish name, associated European tree, and a corresponding north central Florida plant. There are links to a page for each few, with plant photos and information, modern associations, and some related folklore. This is generally accepted information that can be a starting point for your own study. There are many references out there, and the ones I use for these Ogham pages are listed after the table.

Basic Ogham information

Ogham is usually read from bottom to top in vertical lines. In the Beith-Luis-Nuin Ogham alphabet there are 20 basic letters (called fews or feda), and five extra letters (called forfeda).

The fews are arranged in five groups (called aicme, or aicmi for more than one group). I’ve also included 2 additional fews in common usage. Ogham spellings will vary between Old and New Irish, and the scholarship used.

Changing meanings

Historically, the letters of this alphabet had names that included natural elements, as well as trees and plants. It is likely different meanings were attributed to the letters from one area to the next, and changed by poets and others in verbal tradition as time went on.

Current associations are still complex and in flux, and often debated. For instance, versions of Ogham calendars vary so widely that I choose not to include them in the first version of these pages. Now I include a Celtic calendar that uses 13 of the letter names for 13 months, and starts in November. (The Celtic Tree Oracle, by Liz and Colin Murray.)


FLORIDA 'TREE'
AICME OF BEITH
BEITH

Beith vertical

BIRCH
(Betula alba,
pendula,
or pubescens)
RIVER BIRCH
(Betula nigra)
LUIS

Luis

ROWAN OR
MOUNTAIN ASH
(Sorbus aucuparia)
BLACK CHERRY
(Prunus serotina)
FEARN

Fearn

ALDER
(Alnus glutinosa)
HAZEL ALDER
(Alnus serrulata)
SAILLE

Saille

WILLOW
(Salix fragilis, alba,
viminalis, or caprea)
WILLOW
(Salix caroliniana Michaux,
eriocephala,
or floridana)
NUIN

Nuin

ASH
(Fraxinus excelsior)
WHITE ASH
(Fraxinus americana
Linnaeus)
AICME OF HUATHE
HUATHE

Huathe

HAWTHORN
(Crataegus monogyna
& oxyacantha)
HAWTHORN
(Crataegus uniflora M.)
DUIR

Duir

OAK
(Quercus rubur
or petraea)
LAUREL OAK
(Quercus hemisphaerica)
WATER OAK
(Quercus nigra)
TINNE

Tinne

HOLLY
(Ilex aquifolium)
AMERICAN HOLLY
(Ilex opaca)
TOPAL HOLLY
(Ilex x attenuata Ashe)
CULL

Cull

HAZEL
(Corylus avellana)
AMERICAN HORNBEAM
(Carpinus caroliniana)
QUERT

Quert

APPLE
(Pyrus malus or
sylvestris)
SOUTHERN CRABAPPLE
(Malus angustifolia M.)
AICME OF MUIN
MUIN

VINE
(grape vine)
(Vitis vinifera)
BRAMBLE
(Blackberry)
(Rubus Fruticosa)
MUSCADINE GRAPE
(Vitus rotundifolia Michx.)
SAND BLACKBERRY
(Rubus cuneifolius)

GORT

Gort

IVY
(Hedera helix)
VIRGINA CREEPER
(Parthenocissus
quinquefolia)
NGETAL

Ngethal

BROOM
(Cytisus scoparius)
REED
(Phragmites australis)
FERN
(Pteridium aquilinum)

SWEETBROOM
(Scoparia dulcis)
SWITCHCANE
(Arundinaria gigantea)
BRACKEN FERN
(Pteridium aquilinum)

STRAIF

Straif

BLACKTHORN
(Prunus spinosa)
HOG or FLATWOODS
PLUM
(Prunus umbellata E.)
RUIS

Ruis

ELDER
(Sambucus nigra)
ELDERBERRY
(Sambucus nigra Canad.)
AICME OF AILM
AILM

Ailm

SCOTS PINE
(Pinus sylvestris)

 

SILVER FIR
(Abies alba)
ELM
(Ulmus glabra)

LONGLEAF PINE
(Pinus palustris Mill.)
SLASH PINE
(Pinus elliottii Engelm.)
LOBLOLLY PINE
(Pinus taeda Linnaeus)
WINGED ELM
(Ulmus alata M.)
OHN (or ONN)

Ohn

FRUZE, GORSE
(Ulex europaneus)
SICKLEPOD
(Senna obtusifolia)
UR (or URA)

HEATHER
(Calluna vulgaris)
HAIRY WICKY
(Kalmia hirsuta Walt.)
EABHA
(or EADHA)

ASPEN
(Populus tremula)
SWEETGUM
(Liquidamber
styraciflua L.)
IOHO (or IDHO)

Ioho

YEW
(Taxus baccata)
BALD CYPRESS
(Taxodium distichum)

AICME OF EABHADH

(THE FORFEDA)

EABHADH
(or EBAD)

ASPEN
(or a grove of all trees)
(Populus tremula)
SWEETGUM
(Liquidamber styraciflua L.)
OIR

SPINDLE
(Euonymus europaeus)
AMERICAN
STRAWBERRYBUSH
(Euonymus americanus L.)
UILLEAND

Uilleand

HONEYSUCKLE
(Lonicera periclymenum)
CORAL HONEYSUCKLE
(Lonicera sempervirens L.)
IPHEN

GOOSEBERRY
(Ribes uva-crispa)
HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY
(Vaccinium corymbosum)
EAMANCHOLL

(or PHAGOS)

Eamancholl

BEECH
(Fagus sylvatica)
AMERICAN BEECH
(Fagus grandifolia)
OTHER FORFEDA
PEITH

Peith

SWAMP ELDER
(Viburnum opulus)
RUSTY BLACKHAW

(Viburnum rifidulum)

the UNSPEAKABLE

(or blank)

the Unspeakable

MISTLETOE
(Viscum album)
MISTLETOE
(Phoradendron leucarpum)
Resources

The Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer (2006)

Tree Wisdom: The Definitive Guidebook to the Myth, Folklore, and Healing Power of Trees by Jacqueline Memory Paterson (1996)

Celtic Tree Mysteries: Practical Druid Magic & Divination (Llewellyn’s Celtic Wisdom) by Steve Blamires (2002)

The Celtic Tree Oracle: A System of Divination (link is to available 2014 edition) by Liz and Colin Murray (1991)

Celtic Wisdom Sticks: Ancient Ogam Symbols Offer Guidance for Today
by Caitlin Matthews (2001)

Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, by Erynn Rowan Laurie

Ogham article on Wikipedia

The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida: A Reference and Field Guide (Reference and Field Guides) by Gil Nelson (1996)

The Trees of Florida by Gil Nelson (2010)

Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants

Floridata Plant Profile List

University of Florida Herbarium (FLAS)

USDA Plants Database

School of Forest Resources & Conservation IFAS, University of Florida Forest Trees (and Plants) catalog

North Dakota Tree Information Center

University of Texas, Austin- Wildflower Center

USDA Fire Effects Information- Plants

University of Michigan, Deerborn Ethnobotany Database

Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices Of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffmann (2003)

Botanical.com, A Modern Herbal (tends to only have European species, and limited American species listed)

For reports of uses by American Indians (by plant species)- University of Michigan, Deerborn Ethnobotany Database

HerbMed (search and get results of scientific articles on herbs)

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH

Other Local Oghams

Ogham & Native Florida Plants. (June 2012-2015). Dana Wiyninger

Dryadia’s Native Texas Oghams. (2007). Dryadia

A Pacific Northwest Ogham. (2003). John Michael Greer

An Australian Ogham by Taran

Australian Ogham Correspondences by Kirsty

Special Thanks To:

The staffs at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and Morningside Nature Center in Gainesville, FL

Julio Reis for his Ogham Symbols (2006)

 


Tree & Plant Photos: by Dana Wiyninger