Cow Parsley - Penny Snowden
This is the cow parsley moment, its blossom making foamy bow waves against hawthorn hedges along the road and very beautiful and romantic it is too. It is a very common flower of spring and early summer on shaded roadsides and similar places.
When I was a child I knew it as ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ which you must admit is far more a romantic name than pedestrian ‘Cow Parsley’. I’ve discovered that Cow parsley has many country names, such as wild chervil and Queen Anne’s lace, fairy lace, lady’s lace, hedge parsley.
There are many stories to explain the origins of the Queen Anne name. Some say as Queen Anne travelled around the country in May, she thought that the roadsides had been specifically decorated for her! Others claimed that as Queen Anne suffered from asthma, she would often take walks in the countryside for fresh air. As she passed the flowers of cow parsley, they reminded her of the lace pillows that her ladies-in-waiting carried, and so created this name for them.
Another name commonly come across is ‘mother-die’, as folklore suggests that your mother would die if the plant was taken indoors. I wonder if this stems from the fact that the poisonous hemlock plant looks quite similar, so it’s to discourage children from making a fatal mistake? It is used to decorate our rural churches as it has an architectural quality,
Did you know that young leaves of the plant are edible, but as it has so many poisonous relatives that look similar, including hemlock, it’s best left uneaten!
Cow parsley is important for a variety of insects, including bees and hover flies as it is an early source of pollen. It is also a food plant for the moth Agonopterix heracliana and a nectar source for orange-tip butterflies.
It’s a lovely decoration for our country lanes.
"I love Cow Parsley Penny and had some at the Church for our wedding. It is so lacy, pretty and mixes well with other flowers. I remember Becky picking my father a bunch after my mother's death and he called it Scabby Dingle and wasn't a fan! Anyone heard that name for it? Thank you Penny! A really summery blog." Rhian