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In recognition of Cow Parsley

Updated: May 23, 2023

Is this a very under-rated wildflower? Driving along narrow Dorset lanes this week (in mid-May) there is an abundance of it on the roadsides – and no doubt elsewhere ‘off the beaten track’ had I been there to see it. This must be cow parsley’s peak time (along with May blossom which also is coming out in flower right now; as is wild garlic in the woods). How clever nature is to give us these treats – last month, when the final flurry of cold weather ushered in spring, it was the blackthorn that impressed; before then it was the bluebells, and earlier than that - snowdrops.

Cow Parsley is also known by other names – crossword fans would know that. When I trained in Lincolnshire ‘Keck’ was its local derivative – Queen Anne’s lace sounds rather more complimentary.

Research shows cow parsley – like so many wild plants – has medicinal value, although I’m not sure how much it is still used. But it is also a natural pollinator too, for bees and butterflies, all of which have their role to play in enhancing habitat and the environment. I admit I’m not a great fan of the ‘wilding’ trend, but where it occurs, it does demonstrate to us that the variety of flora and fauna in the English countryside is immense. I think it’s best to leave Nature to thrive in its own way – I’m not convinced the ‘human touch’ always improves what is there for us to see.

The weather has some influence too! This year the spring seemed much slower to arrive, so only now in mid-May are the trees in full leaf, whereas in some years that might have been seen a few weeks ago. And, of course, it makes us wonder what the months ahead will bring – wet or dry, hot or cold? Nature has an uncanny ability to ‘even out’ climate extremes – at least this seems to be so in the temperate Britain we are lucky enough to experience.

So – enjoy the cow parsley while you can! It may in places restrict a driver’s vision alongside the highways, but perhaps it’s a beautiful reason just to go slower, rather than wonder under your breath why the Council hasn’t yet trimmed back the verges!

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