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Cardamine Pratensis / Lady’s Smock


Often known as ‘lady’s smock,’ the pretty lilac flowers open around the time the cuckoo starts to call.

The flowers are usually veined with darker violet but in some areas pure white forms can be found. It is an important food plant for the caterpillars of the orange-tip and the green-veined white butterfly. In his Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey shows how the first full blooming of the Cuckooflower is a remarkably accurate predictor of the first hearing of the bird itself.

Where to find Cuckooflower

This wild flower is commonly found throughout the UK. It grows wherever there is damp ground – wet grassland, damp meadows, pond margins and along the banks of streams. It is may also found on road verges and in ditches.

How’s it doing?

Cuckooflower is commonly found in its preferred habitats.

Orange tip butterfly on a Cuckooflower

Did you know?

  • There are a vast number of common names including Our Lady’s smock, milkmaids, fairy flower, May flower and coco plant.
  • In parts of Devon, flore pleno (the double-flowered) form and ‘hose-in-hose’ form (where one normal bloom grows through the centre of another) are fairly common.
  • Young leaves of the Cuckooflower have a rather peppery taste and can be a useful substitute for cress in sandwiches and salads.
  • In some parts of England picking Cardamine pratensis was considered unlucky. With this characteristic, the plant was little used in medicine.
  • In Cheshire (where it is the county flower) it is traditionally known as ‘milkmaid’ – no doubt harking back to the county’s strong dairy heritage.
  • Cuckooflower is also the county flower of Brecknockshire/Sir Frycheiniog.
Bluebell close-up.


Hyacinthoides non-scripta

A close up of a blue bugle plant.


Ajuga reptans

Cowslip Close Up.


Primula Veris