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Maltese-cross

(Lychnis chalcedonica )

Maltese-cross © Bob Gibbons/Natural Image

Maltese-cross © Bob Gibbons/Natural Image


A flower of many names, it is also known as 'nonsuch', 'Jerusalem cross' and the 'Flower of Bristol'.

A vivid red bloom with distinctive lobed petals. Maltese cross is a native of eastern Russia and, according to folklore, was spread to the Mediterranean by crusading knights. One such order was the Knights Hospitaller, otherwise known as the Knights of Malta and it may be that its resemblance to their insignia - the Maltese Cross in question - provided both its name and the reason for bringing it home with them.

Seafaring merchants introduced it to the UK as early as the 16th century, principally via the port of Bristol and the flower is still associated with the city to this day.

County flower of Bristol.

Habitat

The plant is now naturalized on waste ground, roadside, and rubbish tips.

Best time to see

May–August when it flowers.