Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Cuckooflower at the Loch of Tankerness

After the dark days of winter the Cuckooflower, like the Marsh Marigold, is a welcome early bloom. It is common on damp verges where it provides a ribbon of colour or in marshes, ditches and damp pastures where on a spring day its four-petalled flowers of lilac are scattered like stars in the firmament. In among the lilac flowers are less numerous ones of rose-pink and white. Its lower leaves are large and kidney-shaped like those of Watercress (a very close relative) while its upper leaves are narrow.
This perennial has many local names most of them relating to milkmaids and smocks, cuckoos and virgins. It is a spring flower, coming out with the first calls of the Cuckoo. The Lady’s smock refers to the smock of the Virgin Mary, a relic supposedly found in the cave at Bethlehem. However it also has some undesirable associations; in Austria it was believed to be the favourite flower of adders, those who picked it would be bitten before the year was out and in Germany it was a thunder and storm flower, not to be picked for fear of the house being struck by lightning. It has been little-utilised in medicine but in Scotland it has been gathered as a salad and as a cure for epileptic fits.