Wednesday 23 April 2014

Long purples, Mary-buds and lady-smocks

There with fantastic garlands did she come,
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them
                                         Hamlet act 4, sc.7, l. 167

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula
To mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth today, here are a few botanical references from his work. Many more could be thought of, but these are all in flower at the arboretum today, and on what has been a glorious English spring day they seem most appropriate for this commemoration.

When daisies pied and violets blue

And lady-smocks all silver white
And cuckoo-buds of golden hue
Do paint the meadows with delight
               Love's Labour's Lost act 5, sc.2

Daisy, Bellis perennis: Lady's Smock, Cardamine pratensis

Hark! Hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
and Phoebus 'gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs
On chaliced flowers that lies;
And winking Mary-buds begin
To ope their golden eyes
                                     Cymbeline act 2, sc. 3

Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris

On her left breast
A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops
I' the bottom of a cowslip
                                               Cymbeline act 2, sc. 2

Cowslip, Primula veris


  1. I always thought "Long purples" were Cuckoo Pint aka Lords and Ladies etc? Hence the "coarser name". Though ours are not fully displaying their lordships quite yet.

  2. Thanks for your celebration of our greatest wordsmith John. And all in flower today. Give it some more thought to come up with some more, it makes a great post!

  3. Hallo John , The cowslips are lovely here in Cornwall at the moment too ....but I come back to your blog to read the excellent write up you did about Impatiens tinctoria a couple of years ago . Isn,t it wonderful how after our cruel English winter is is still coming back! I look forward to seeing mine in flower . How is yours doing ?


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.