Cuckoo Flower / Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) — ID Guide

Cuckoo Flower / Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) – Biolar gréagháin Brassicaceae

Cuckoo Flower / Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) from a damp grassland in Co. Donegal. – Oisín Duffy
Cuckoo Flower / Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis) from a damp grassland in Co. Donegal. – Oisín Duffy

Another beauty which flowers in Spring and one of my favourite plants (for reasons that will become apparent later in the post).

Cuckoo Flower in flower in a woodland in Co. Armagh this year – Oisín Duffy
Cuckoo Flower in flower in a woodland in Co. Armagh this year – Oisín Duffy

Cuckoo flower can be found in a number of habitats, but it does have a preference for wetter areas, wet grasslands, damp meadow verges, woodlands and even roadsides (if your local roadside verges haven’t been cut).

The hoverfly Rhingia campestris enjoying some Cardamine pratensis alongside a ditch near a conifer plantation in Co. Donegal – Oisín Duffy
The hoverfly Rhingia campestris enjoying some Cardamine pratensis alongside a ditch near a conifer plantation in Co. Donegal – Oisín Duffy

The numerous flowers of the plant are beautiful, four overlapping petals which range from lilac to white in colour. The petals have a subtle venation which can be seen in picture below.

The beautiful flower of Cardamine pratensis, an extremely distinctive species, with relatively few confusion species in Ireland. In the picture above, you can see how the petals are overlapping and also have a subtle venation – Oisín Duffy
The beautiful flower of Cardamine pratensis, an extremely distinctive species, with relatively few confusion species in Ireland. In the picture above, you can see how the petals are overlapping and also have a subtle venation – Oisín Duffy

The leaves of the plant vary, basal leaves are oval and in a rosette, while stem leaves are slender with many leaflets.

Slender stem leaves of Cardamine pratensis- Oisín Duffy
Slender stem leaves of Cardamine pratensis– Oisín Duffy

Cuckoo flower is also the larval foodplant of the Orange-Tip Butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) and one of the major reasons I like it so much. Over coming weeks you may start to notice small orange eggs on the plant. Caterpillars will emerge from the eggs (which they eat) and then move on to eating parts of the plants and other Orange-tip caterpillars (if present).

photo1

photo2

Orange-tip egg on Cardamine pratensis, well worth looking for if you find the plant – Oisín Duffy
Orange-tip egg on Cardamine pratensis, well worth looking for if you find the plant – Oisín Duffy
An Orange-tip Butterfly (Male) feeding on Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium) – Oisín Duffy
An Orange-tip Butterfly (Male) feeding on Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium) – Oisín Duffy

This is currently in flower, so why not get out there and have a look for this beautiful plant and if you happen to find it, why not put the record into the Spring Flower Project a joint project between the National Biodiversity Data Centre and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI).

Remember if you have any ideas for future posts or if you want help with identification you can ask me on Twitter @OshDuffy.

Oisín Duffy
About Oisín Duffy 23 Articles
Oisín Duffy is an ecologist and environmental educator with a special interest in the Flora of Ireland and Pollinators. He is the photographer and co-author of Biodiversity Ireland’s identification guide on “Trees and Shrubs”. He has a BA from NUIG and an MSc from NUIG and UL. Oisín is an active biological recorder, and current Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-county recorder for East Donegal (H34) and participates in a number of recording schemes run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), Bat Conservation Ireland (BCI) and others. In 2016, Oisín worked in conjunction with the National Biodiversity Data Centre to develop a plant monitoring scheme for Ireland. During the Summer of 2016, he toured Ireland giving workshops for the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. His most recent work has been as a photographer and author of the “Wildflowers in South Armagh”.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


*