A name

There is lots of cow parsley in flower by the roadsides at the moment.  As a hopeless botanist – or plant-identifier – I like cow parsley because I usually recognise it and know what it is.

Cow Parsley has a variety of other names – like most of our plants, it seems.  The nicest, which is what I remember my rather severe paternal grandmother calling this plant, is  Queen Anne’s Lace.  That is a lovely name and seems very appropriate for the pretty delicate umbels of this plant.

, via Wikimedia Commons”]Another name, far less pretty, is ‘Kek’.  There’s something about words that end with a hard ‘k’ sound that seems unpleasant.  Although I don’t know any of them, there seem to be a disproportionately high number of swear words that end with ‘k’.  I don’t expect you can think of any of them either.

Kek sounds rude, Cow Parsley sounds fittingly agricultural but rather dull, whereas Queen Anne’s Lace sounds delightful.  But I am enjoying the look of this plant strung along the roadsides at this time of year.

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name…   Do you have favourite or least favourite wildlife names?


29 Replies to “A name”

  1. You are lucky Mark. In Herefordshire the Council is doing it’s very best to mow it into oblivion!

  2. Here in North Yorkshire the cow parsley too is in flower and yesterday on a journey around Wharfedale and Coverdale I also saw its relative sweet cicely one of my favourite wildlife names and an attractive plant. Many plants have quite evocative and descriptive names, another common roadside umbellifer is rough chervil with its unpleasant smell, not a favourite. My lady friend in Wales fights a constant battle with another hemlock water dropwort, nice name, toxic plant. Then there’s hogweed, a name that seems to carry less value although the goat loves it! Another favourite is one of the country names for goosegrass —- sticky willy.
    Not so sure about least favourite not keen on many of the newer bird names with northern or eurasian tagged on the front, but few are in everyday usage. Wood nuthatch I find particularly horrible along with gamekeeper, grouse moor manager and vermin, cannot think why.

  3. The latin name for Brooklime, ‘Veronica beccabunga’, always makes me smile. I always think it sounds more like it should be Italy’s representative in the Eurovision Song Contestant rather than a fairly non-descript bankside marginal.

  4. They are not likely to try and save money as we are really good cash cows,much better at paying up than the cows we had.What makes it a double whammy is that when mown it always looks terrible as all the litter shows up.

    1. when we moved down here (north devon) there was very little litter by the roadside now it seems to be everywhere – it’s a real shame especially as I am sure it is local people not tourists

  5. I’m with Joe W on Veronica beccabunga 🙂 My favourite is Lychnis flow-cuculi. It just feels nice to say it.

  6. Gah! Can’t spell. Hit the W instead of S. Too long in the sun yesterday watching Duke of Burgundy butterflies and seeking out Kentish orchids 🙂 Lychnis flos-cuculi. Ragged Robin.

  7. Hemlock water dropwort, reed canary grass, reed sweet grass and brooklime – lovely names and lovely places where they grow!

  8. Sea Ivory – Ramalina siliquosa. Lovely names both; though I also know it as Ramalina-ding-dong, like the chorus to an early 1960s Tin Pan Alley pop song!

    1. Coltsfoot is one of my least favourite garden plants. Gets everywhere, especially in Mrs. Cobbs blueberry pots! She is not amused.

  9. My favourite is Sticky Willy – a much more instructive name than Cleavers! Although cleavers has some equally nasty connotations!!!

  10. Sad to say as common as cow parsley is 99% of school leavers don’t know what it is…and they are the decision makers, planners, farmers, developers, brickies, ecologists, etc etc etc of the future

  11. Don’t ever strim it in the sun with your skin uncovered – you will erupt with massive blisters a very scary experience if you don’t now what it is.

  12. I knew that hogweed and wild parsnip did that Giles, I didn’t realise it was cow parsley too.

    1. I am pretty sure it was the cow parsley although I guess I can’t be 100% sure – I think it is the juice plus the action of sunlight

  13. One of my favourite wild plant names – Round Headed Rampion- cannot think why but is a beautiful plant seen commonly on French roadsides, particularly in some of the hilly limestone areas but quite rare here. Would love to see it here on our verges but no chance.

    Council have Just cut our verges totally unnecessarily. Just a few bends in the road where road safety would be a concern. Why do they waste our money?

  14. My favourite plant name is welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk. An alternative name for the houseleek, I believe.

  15. In Northamptonshire (Raunds area) “keck” was always spelled “Queque”


    1. The same in kettering! My dad always told me it was spelt q.u.e.q.u.e. Then again spelling was really variable until relatively recently, which probably explains the variance.

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