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Cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis

Cardamine pratensis is a flowering plant in the Brassicaceae (cabbage) family. The appearance of the flowers between April and June is thought to be timed with the return of the cuckoo and indicates that spring has finally arrived.

Found in damp meadows and by streams, this is one of the most charming of our native wild flowers. The delicate flowers are produced on a spike 10-30 cm long and each flower is 1-2 cm diameter with four petals. The colour varies from near white to lilac, lined with darker lilac. It is a herbaceous, hairless, perennial plant growing to 40-60 cm tall.

Although the name cardamine is derived from the Greek kardamon (cardamom) - this genus is unrelated to the cardamom plant from the ginger family, used in cooking. The specific name pratensis is Latin for "meadow". It is a food plant for the orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) and is a valuable addition to any area for its wildlife attraction.

There was a lot of superstition surrounding this species, and in folklore it was said to be sacred to the fairies, and considered unlucky if brought indoors. It is not included in traditional May Day garlands for the same reason. It was also thought if anyone picked the flowers a thunderstrom would follow.

This plant species is part of the UK Native Seed Hub, a project at Wakehurst to increase the quality, quantity and diversity of native plants and seeds available for conservation and habitat restoration in the UK.

Cardamine pratensis is the County Flower of Cheshire and Brecknockshire.

You can adopt a seed from this species for £250. Your donation will be used towards the work of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, ensuring this species is kept safe in the vaults forever, and to collect more species in the future.

In addition to receiving your adoption pack featuring your certificate and photograph of the species (this will be posted to you, or the recipient), you will be invited to the County Flower sponsor's event at the Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst where you can meet the staff and see the vaults where your species is stored.

If you have any questions, please contact Jill Taylor on 020 8332 3248 or email j.taylor@kew.org.

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