June 2016 - Medley of Spring Flowers

Cuckoo-pint flower

 

 

The Cuckoo-pint has many names, some undoubtedly inspired by its shape and form. These include: Lords and Ladies, wake robin, Adam and Eve, tender ear, Jack-in-the-pulpit, soldier-in-a-sentry-box, bloody man's finger, mandrake, and an old Kentish name 'Kitty-come-down-the-lane-jump-up-and-kiss-me.'

The strange flower spike, which appears in April and May, is designed to attract flies for pollination and for that purpose releases a faecal/urine-like smell. The fruits, bright orange/red berries, appear in the autumn and are poisonous containing oxalate. They have an extremely acrid taste and cause a quick tingling sensation in the mouth. For this reason, they are unlikely to be ingested in large amounts and serious poisoning is usually avoided (the plant is usually spat out as soon as it is tasted!).  However, this plant, along with Deadly Nightshade, is still one of the most common causes of accidental plant poisoning based on attendance at Accident and Emergency departments. In the case of Cuckoo-pint the attendance is most likely due to the effect of irritation and swelling of the tongue and mouth, and difficulty breathing, rather than effects to the digestive system. Interestingly, its roots used to be used as a source of starch in Elizabethan times.

The attractive flowers of Red Campion can be seen from May to October and attract both butterflies and bees during daylight hours. If you want to grow wild flowers in your garden, this is a must have, growing under trees as well as in full sunlight, and grows well in that odd corner where nothing else seems to grow. White Campion has the same flowering season, and the two may hybridise to produce pink or white blooms. White Campion produces a scent at night which attracts nectar loving moths. Red campion is also known as Batchelor's buttons, and may have been worn as buttonholes by unmarried men. In some parts of Britain, White Campion is sometimes referred to as the Flower of the Dead or the Grave Flower, as it often grows in churchyards.

Greater Stitchwort grows in fields, woods and verges and can become a carpet of delicate white star-shaped flowers in April to June. It is a relative of common chickweed and as such used to be collected as a source of edible wild greens. The name "stitchwort" comes from the once held belief that it cured side stitch caused by exercise.  Its other names include wedding cakes, daddy's-shirt-buttons, poor man's button-hole, and popguns. The latter name is most likely because, as the seed capsules ripen, they can be heard popping.

 

lingibson@bawburghvillage.co.uk

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