It finally stopped raining, we have had some sunshine and where I live the first Ena Harkness rose came into flower on 18 April. This is a good month earlier than usual and it made me think of the names of flowers in Stalbridge in my youth.
Bluebells were called graeckles, the yellow Water Lily was known as the clote and the river Stour in William Barnes’s youth was alight with them. Bindweed was called withywine, vuzz meant furze or gorse and gooch meant couch grass, a weed that all gardeners hated. And by the way, ants were known as emmets and an anthill was called in emmett butt.
The names given to some flowers went much further back to the Middle Ages and the tendency to name flowers after events in the Christian gospel. I remember finding cuckoo flowers, a very pale white flower and on long thin stems that grew in marshy land. They were known as lady smocks, from Our Lady’s smocks.
Also on marshy, rather boggy land we sometimes found huge golden marsh marigolds known as King Cups. And lungwort, a plant that was found in every cottage garden and now known as Pulmonaria, was sometimes called Mary’s Tears. This was because the silver white spots that appear on the leaves were said to be the tears that Mary shed at the crucifixion.
It is amazing to think that flowers can reflect the history and culture of Dorset for so many years and there must be other examples that I haven’t heard about. So please if you know a dialect or religious nickname for any more flowers let the history Society know and I can follow up this study.
© Hilary Townsend