Cardamine pratensis

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Cardamine pratensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Cardamine
Species: C. pratensis
Binomial name
Cardamine pratensis

Cardamine pratensis (cuckooflower or lady's smock), is a flowering plant in the family Brassicaceae, native throughout most of Europe and Western Asia. The specific name pratensis is Latin for "meadow."


Cardamine pratensis is a herbaceous, hairless,[1] perennial plant growing to 40–60 cm tall, with pinnate leaves 5–12 cm long with 3-15 leaflets, each leaflet about 1 cm long. The flowers are produced on a spike 10–30 cm long, each flower 1–2 cm diameter with four pale pink (rarely white) petals. The style of the fruit is short or longish.[1] It grows best close to water.


Common throughout the British Isles.[2]

Recorded in Ireland from all 40 of the "vice-counties", (a system adopted by Praeger (1901)).[3]


It is grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, and has become naturalised in North America as a result of cultivation. In some European countries, including parts of Germany, the plant is now under threat.

It is a food plant for the orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) and makes a valuable addition to any garden which aims at attracting wildlife. It was once used as a substitute for watercress.


In folklore it was said to be sacred to the fairies, and so was unlucky if brought indoors. It was not included in May Day garlands for the same reason.[4]



  1. ^ a b Webb, D.A., Parnell, J. and Doogue, D. An Irish Flora 1996. Dundalgan Press, Dundalk. ISBN 0-85221-131-7
  2. ^ Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1968. Excursion Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-04656-4
  3. ^ Scannell, M.J.P and Synnott, D.M. 1972. Census Catalogue of the Flora of Ireland. Dublin
  4. ^ Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies, (Century, 1987); p


Further illustrations[edit]

Scott, R.2004. Wild Belfast on safari in the city. The Blackstaff Press, Belfast. ISBN 0-85640-762-3. Photograph p. 45.