Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Lady's Smock, Cuckoo Flower - Cardamine Pratensis

 Cardamine Pratensis.  the most part in Aprill and May, when the cuckoo begins to sing her pleasant note without stammering.  Gerard. 

Lady's Smock at Langridge

The flower can either be white or pinkish

Such an innocent wild flower but with  many, many names.  Consult Geoffrey Grigson and you will find it named from one end of Britain to the other.  It is blessed by the name of the Virgin Mary but that naughty word smock gives you a clue to its more amorous connotations.  A flower of the meadow as pratensis will tell you.
When the written word was gifted to only a few, flowers took on symbolic ideas and of course their herbal remedies were used as medicines.  This little flower is rather short of any healing skills, its prettiness though cannot be denied.
According to Grigson, smock came from 'smicker', so though it could be interpreted as the milkmaids mode of wear, smicker could also be seen as looks of desire.
Now it blooms in a very few places and like its namesake the cuckoo may be becoming extinct.  But I shall remember it as I walked along the Cotswold Way, with  its bank of wild flowers through the seasons topped by a great shaggy bank of white flowered hawthorns.

Yesterday a painting came through on F/B, here it is....

Mildred Anne Butler (Irish, 1858-1941)
"The Delegates" (1923)

Immediately a name came to mind 'a Parliament of Crows'.  We name a gathering of birds such as starlings under murmurations.  Well the intelligent crow family can gather together to consult and that is why it is called a 'parliament'.  Not factually true more a folklore tale:) the use of different terms to describe a group of creatures can be random, and in actual fact crows are described as a 'murder'.
But just sticking to my story for awhile.  Once when walking over the Lansdown one early morning, Moss and I saw a gaggle (geese) of crows lined up on the railings of the racecourse, a good hundred and whatever they were doing it looked like they were there having a consultation!  We did not disturb.


  1. While I think I've heard of a Parliament of Crows, I thought the collective noun was a Murder of Crows? Ah, I just realised you said that.

    1. Well their appearance has been associated with death, and reading about it, it is said that crows gather round the body of one of their own. In mourning?

  2. I wonder why crows are so despised by so many.

  3. I think it's a 'memory' instilled deep inside us. When on the battlefields of old, these black birds ate the flesh of the dead soldiers. And of course they still take young lambs. Those beaks are scary.

    1. I was going to tell the tale of something I saw at Madam Tussauds when a child but decided it was too grim but obviously left a lasting impression.

  4. My go-to book for wild flowers is still Keble Martin's Concise British Flora. Mine is a second edition so somewhat out of date now as I believe that there has been a third edition published. He gives many common names alongside the Latin names.

  5. Keble Martin's book was always the one for wild plants, I have Margery Blamey for the scientific terminology and Grigson for the vernacular names Will.


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