French common name: cardabelle
If you have ever visited the villages of Saint Guilhem-le-Désert or La Couvertoirade you may have noticed the above dried flowerhead nailed to many doors. Known locally as the cardabelle. I saw the cardabelle door charm in both villages mentioned. However, apparently it is common to see on doors in many small villages throughout the area.
The leaves have a similar resemblance to a thistle. Indeed it is in the same botanical family as the thistle and the sunflower. A member of the Asteraceae botanical family. A fascinating flower.
It is native to Southern Europe preferring stoney or rocky places on poorer soils in mountainous areas.
So what is this Cardabelle door charm for ?
Our guide, Nicholas, informed us the cardabelle is hanging on doors for two very different reasons. First of all it is a bringer of good luck. A protector against evil spirits. A reason one might expect. Secondly it is a useful instrument for weather forecasting!
Yes, you read correctly. Apparently it curls inward when bad weather is due. The images here are from Saint Guilhem-le-Désert on 8th December. It was a particularly cold day there but not wet. The following day was also cold and dry.
Unfortunately it is now an endangered species. Collection of this cardabelle door charm from the wild is now forbidden. However, our guide assures us the same flower-heads have been hanging on these doors in Saint Guilhem for years.
Apparently Carlina species were traditionally cooked and eaten as a globe artichoke substitute. It appears to have had medicinal use for spasms in the digestive tract, gall bladder and liver. Furthermore reputedly an aphrodisiac.
Finally if you are ever in the vicinity of either village they are well worth a visit to see. Both villages have fascinating history with the added bonus of seeing the cardabelle door charms in situ.