This week I’d like to encourage you to look out for a pretty flower I very much associate with this particular time of year.
Cuckooflower is said to bloom at the same time the cuckoo calls in spring. It’s also known as Lady’s-smock, which Robin Harford says “arose because the flowers were often seen on Lady Day on 25 March”. Robin also touches on the flowers’ association with women’s undergarments in his description, as does The Wildlife Trusts…
Learning the etymology of the huge variety of names for each plant is one of the things I have enjoyed the most while learning more about the natural world. I particularly liked this snippet, also from Robin Harford:
[Cuckooflower’s] less flattering nickname of ‘cuckoo’s spit’, which referred to the foam covering a pale green insect found on the plant, meant few children in the north of England would pick the wildflower, believing that the cuckoo had spat on it.
Yum! Despite this folklore, I was kicking myself for not picking a few flowers and leaves when I recently found a whole ditch-full of cuckooflower on a quiet country lane. I’d completely forgotten it was edible, but the leaves are said to taste like wasabi and the flowers a bit like cress.
Like the chiffchaff’s song (from last week’s email), cuckooflowers coming into bloom feels to me like a little gift from nature to reassure us warmer days are coming.
Isn’t the timing of nature astounding?! When you stop and think about it, isn’t it just *incredible* that we can be confident that this plant will bloom when the Cuckoo calls in spring? So confident, in fact, that we actually name it after the bird. - Leif Bersweden
If you’d like to go out and find some cuckooflower this weekend, you’re likely to find this pretty plant on riverbanks, in damp meadows or in ditches and roadside verges.
While we’re on the subject of cuckoos, let’s all remind ourselves how brutal these migratory birds are!
Thanks for reading. Look out for an extra email this Sunday about contributing to future newsletters. I’ll also be starting our first community chat on Sunday. I’m really hoping you’ll join in and share something you’ve noticed in nature this April! You’ll need the Substack app (free on the App store and Play store) to use the chat function, which is well worth downloading.
I drove past some of these this week and wondered what they were called. So pretty and delicate.
And also the chosen food of the orange-tip butterfly, which is why I'll have to restrain myself from grazing on all the flowers which are springing up here in the garden...