“Leaves of three, let it be. If
it’s shiny, watch your heiny. If it’s hairy, it’s a berry”
This piece of
folklore is a saying to talk about how to identify poison oak. If it has three
leaves or is shiny with oil, watch your heiny, meaning that it is likely poison
oak. If the plant is hairy, it is a berry bush. This piece of folklore is
performed typically outdoors and used for a very practical sense. It is a
teaching tool to enable people to identify poison oak, whose oil will cause
rashes on anyone who touches it with bare skin.
subject learned this piece of folklore from Boy Scouts. It embodies the type of
preparedness and learning the boy scouts emphasizes and is a very practical way
of remembering the qualities of a poison oak plant. The subject learned it from
their Scoutmaster during a camping trip. The subject, of course, made use of it
as a practical saying which is its intended purpose. They remember it because
of their interest in the outdoors when they were younger, which was the reason
they joined Boy Scouts in the first place.
This saying is not just a warning for kids. It represents technical education through oral folklore. Typically, something like this would just be told by another person or read in a book. Instead, this saying was created in order to help people remember their qualities. Because of this, it takes on a different form and really represents the importance of passing down knowledge to the younger generations.
From what I can remember, there was a race of living beings, some species before us, way before our time, that knew that we were coming out of the muck and they were much farther evolved than we are or were at the time. I suppose you could say at the time we were either very weird fishy organisms in what we called the muck or something even more devolved than that. And they recognized that something intelligent was going to come out, something that had the capacity to change its environment, grow in strength and power and number. And so that species decided to leave behind some of its intelligence in the form of other living things on the planet, in particular, plants. And those plants ended up helping us in our evolution as we progressed and they spoke to us, so to speak. And they continue to speak to us through different mediums and to the people that choose to listen.
My informant learned this myth from a South American shaman who uses plants for medicinal, psychotherapeutic, psycho-spiritual, and healing purposes and ceremonies. It’s a myth about human intelligence and plant intelligence and how we didn’t get to this point on our own, but were given help. What I take from this myth is a particular respect for nature as well as an explanation for the profound powers plants have on their own and the powers they have in our bodies, concerning food, medicine, and even drugs when we find the appropriate ways to extract those powers. Working with plants, humans have developed agriculture and advanced kinds of medicine through practice and study, or as the shaman would say, by listening to what the plants had to tell us and still have to tell us.