The Everyday Lore Project

28 August 2020 – Red Valerian

28 August 2020 – Red Valerian

I had a lightbulb moment today. Not an ‘I’ve discovered the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything’ kind of lightbulb moment (42, in case you’re wondering), but an ‘Oh. So that’s why that was happening’ lightbulb moment. 

My cat has been dribbling on my notebook. Not that astonishing as she dribbles on everything, but a couple of months ago she took a particular shine to it, so much so I’ve had to wrestle it from her several times. On one such occasion, she dislodged a tutti I’d forgotten I was pressing between the pages. Thinking nothing of it, I shoved it back in and threw a pipe cleaner across the room to distract her. 

Cut to last week. Whilst reading Discovering The Folklore of Plants, I came across an entry for red valerian. It’s said that valerian attracts cats and rats, it’s even said to be the key to the Pied Piper’s success. And then I remembered, in amongst my pressed tutti was some red valerian. Ah, I thought, the cat was rocking out to that.

Only I didn’t really read the book properly. It starts with red valerian and then goes on to just valerian. And just to further complicate matters, it mentions another red valerian, only this isn’t Valeriana officinalis this is Centranthus ruber. Which doesn’t attract cats, but also attracts cats. Depending on what source you’re looking at. 

This story is already several paragraphs too long. So to cut it short: Cat taken to the vet today. Cat very indignant. Worried that cat might take revenge and defile shoe, I cut some red valerian of the Centranthus ruber variety from a nearby wall to appease her. Wafted it at cat. Cat excited but not thrilled. Swapped for dried red valerian. Cat more excited but still not approaching previously observed notebook dribbling ecstasy. Returned to notebook and wafted another sprig of tutti as a control. Cat went bananas. Looked up sprig.


It was catnip. 

Sodding catnip. All along.

So, still no idea if I can parade around the house flaunting a flute with the cat trailing behind me. But at least I know where there’s a ready supply of cat crack nearby.   

She was genuinely much more bananas than this, this is more post-ecstasy snortage. 🔊🔊🔊

There’s only a couple more days left to get your request in for World Letter Writing Day on 1 September. For full details on how you can potentially bag a hand written, hand painted postcard about the folklore subject of your choice, click here.


Baker, M. (2019) Discovering The Folklore of Plants, Oxford, Shire Publications

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

2 comments on “28 August 2020 – Red Valerian”

  1. Valerian and Centranthus are both used for cats that don’t respond to catnip.

    Both catnip and valerian are sedative for humans but cats are known to become excited when given human sedatives.

    Both plants cause (severe) neural tube birth defects if a woman using it becomes pregnant. The same warning applies to compounds valproic acid and Depakote from these plants, available by prescription only

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