Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Spring flowers

Yes, it’s spring, although for very early May the temperature’s rather low. What a joy to discover some colour. Here three fairly common species that grow in our old meadows in Gravenhurst.

Cuckoo flower, a member of the cabbage family, appears in the damper parts of the meadow, in amongst soft rush. The name is shared with a few others that flower at the same time as cuckoos arrive, although why lady’s smock, an alternative name still used commonly now, I couldn’t say; perhaps the delicate pale mauve of its petals was a common colour for women’s clothes at some point in the past. They wouldn’t cover much of a lady anyway. Cowslips are Primulas, possibly so called because of their preference for fields in which cattle graze. Their seeds have been sown in huge numbers along new road embankments in recent years – perhaps carslips might replace cowslip in the future. In theory, cowslips are known as peggles in Herts and Beds although I’ve only heard this from a genuine local, unprompted, once in the last 30 years of listening for it. I drop it into conversations whenever I can. Lesser celandine is listed as a woodland flower although it seems to grow pretty much anywhere around here. A buttercup which turns out, rather confusingly, to be related to greater celandine by nothing more than colour, was also named pilewort, apparently, and you really wouldn’t want to be rubbing the wrong remedy there. William Wordsworth was so fond of the flower that he wrote three poems about it (3-1 daffodils!).

lesser celandine

lesser celandine



Cuckoo flower or ladies smock

Cuckoo flower or ladies smock


  1. Graham Sayell Graham Sayell
    May 3, 2015    

    Presumably you resist the temptation to slip into conversation the common name for Rhodochiton Volubilis?

    • May 3, 2015    

      Not having South America’s flora committed to memory yet, and it would seem, having missed a crucial episode of Gardeners’ Question Time, I’ve had to look this up. Black man’s willy! I read that the BBC have apologised for the discussion following a question about the plant.
      Yes I would probably resist the temptation to drop the name into conversation – but I might fail as it’s such a good one.

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