Kitty Come Down the Lane Jump up and Kiss me, or England’s strangest flower

Walking through the wood at the back of the house today, I came across large numbers of Lords and Ladies, which I hold to be England’s strangest wildflower. Read on and see if you agree with me.

The appearance of the Cuckoo Pint is undoubtedly odd, no colour just shades of green and brown, the only other colour appears in the autumn with the appearance of the bright red berries, which every country child is taught to avoid as they are poisonous.
With no colour Dog Bobbins doesn’t attract bees and other similar pollinators, rather Sucky Calves is pollinated by imprisoned insects! If you try and smell Parson’s Billycock, take care the smell can be rather unpleasant, like rotting meat.


As an aside a tropical relation of the Wild Arum has not only the largest, but also the smelliest, flower in the world. In the late nineteenth century Kew gardens managed to get one to flower. The directors immediately contacted Marianne North, the great explorer and botanical artist, as she had never managed to see the flower in the wild and was excited to get the opportunity to paint the flower. Spending several days in an enclosed, very hot, glasshouse the smell almost killed her, she took nearly six months to recover!


Small flies are attracted to the smell of the Moll of the Woods, and creep down into the swollen part at the bottom of the flower. Here they find some parts of the Dog’s Dibble that they can feed on, but if they try to leave they find downward pointing hairs that prevent them from getting out. After a few days the flower wilts and the flies that are still alive can escape, covered in pollen. These little arthropods are rather lacking in intelligence and are attracted to the nearest Toad’s Meat, descend into the swollen base again and pollinate the Babe in the Cradle, before they die, apparently no fly survives two visits to a Fairies Fly Catcher.


You would think that people must have found many uses for Bloody Fingers, but I only know of one. In the late eighteenth century the Society of Arts offered rewards to people who could help solve various practical problems, such as waterproofing leather or mapping the country. One such problem was finding an alternative source of starch, used for stiffening clothes, rather than using foodstuffs such as grain or potatoes. The prize was won by an innkeeper on the Isle of Portland who described how she used the aptly named Starchmore to make starch for her clothing. Unfortunately it was soon realised that the roots of Standing Gusses were also rich in crystals of silica which both made the laundrywoman’s hands red and sore, as well as the necks of those unfortunate to wear collars starched with Cow’s Parsnip.


Now you will have noticed that I have not used any one name for this plant twice, this is because there are so many to choose from. It has more names than any other English wildflower, 102 according to Geoffrey Grigson in The Englishman’s Flora, though my favourite is the one I started this piece with – Kitty come down the lane jump up and kiss me.


So that is my candidate for England’s strangest flower, what do you think?


And here are all the names!

Adam and Eve
Adder’s Food
Adder’s Meat
Adder’s Tongue
Angels and Devils
Babe in the Cradle
Bloody Fingers
Bloody Man’s Finger
Bobbin and Joan
Bobbin Joan
Bulls and Cows
Bulls and Wheys
Calves’ Foot
Cocky Baby
Cow and Kies
Cow’s Parsnip
Cuckoo Cock
Cuckoo Flower
Cuckoo Pint
Cuckoo Point
Dead Man’s Fingers
Devils and Angels
Devils Ladies and Gen’ilemen
Devil’s Men and Women
Dog Bobbins
Dog Cocks
Dog’s Dibble
Dog’s Spear
Dog’s Tassel
Fairies Fly Catcher
Frog’s Meat
Gentlemen and Ladies
Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Fingers
Gentleman’s Finger
Great Dragon
Jack in the Box
Jack in the Green
Jack in the Pulpit
Kings and Queens
Kitty come down the lane jump up and kiss me
Knights and Ladies
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies’ Lords
Lady’s Finger
Lady’s Keys
Lady’s Slipper
Lady’s Smock
Lamb in a Pulpit
Lamb’s Lakens
Lily Grass
Long Purples
Lords and Ladies
Lords’ and Ladies’ Fingers
Man in the Pulpit
Men and Women
Moll of the Woods
Old Man’s Pulpit
Parson and Clerk
Parson in his Smock
Parson in the Pulpit
Parson’s Billycock
Preacher in the Pulpit
Priest in the Pulpit
Priest’s Pilly
Priest’s Pintle
Poison Fingers
Poison Root
Ram’s Horn
Red Hot Poker
Silly Lovers
Small Dragon
Snake’s Food
Snake’s Meat
Snake’s Victuals
Soldiers and Angels
Soldiers and Sailors
Stallions and Mares
Standing Gusses
Sucky Calves
Toad’s Meat
Wake Robin
White and Red
Wild Arum
Wild Lily



Filed under Wild Flower

2 responses to “Kitty Come Down the Lane Jump up and Kiss me, or England’s strangest flower

  1. Mm whoever coined Man in the Pulpit was on to something.


  2. Pingback: Guest author: Gordon Le Pard ~ The Way Through the Woods | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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