Robin Hood - Lychnis flos-cuculi
|Folk name||Robin Hood|
|Binomial name||Lychnis flos-cuculi|
|Used where||England, several counties|
By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2015-07-26. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-09-13
The author R.M. Gilchrist noted in 1913 that Lychnis flos-cuculi, commonly called Ragged-Robin, was known by the outlaw's name in several English counties. Was it simply the element 'Robin' in the most common folk-name for this plant that led to the adoption of the alternative name of 'Robin Hood'? In any case, the first occurrence yet found of this folk name is dated 1844 (see Quotations section below)
The plant is herbaceous and perennial, belonging to the family Caryophyllaceae. Native to Europe, it is found along roads, in wet meadows and pastures. As a consequence of modern farming techniques and draining of wet-lands the plant is no longer as common in Britain as it used to be. The plant forms a rosette of low-growing foliage with numerous 20-90 cm tall flower stems which rise above the foliage and branch near the top of the stem, ending in pink flowers that are 3-4 cm across. The stems have barbed hairs pointing downward, which make the plant rough to the touch. It blooms from May to August or later.
Look up an' let the evemen light
But sparkle in thy eyes so bright
As thāe be oben to the light
O' zunzet in the west
An' lè's stroll here var hafe an hour
Wher hangèn boughs damiake a bow'r
Upon theōs bank wi' eltrot flow'r
An' Robinhoods a-drest.
- N.E.D., vol. VIII, pt. I, p. 736, s.n. Robin Hood, sb., 3 b.
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Lychnis flos-cuculi, 'Ragged Robin' or 'Robin Hood' in bloom / Guido Gerding; Wikimedia.
A colony of lychnis flos-cuculi, 'Ragged Robin' or 'Robin Hood' / Irena Trummer; Creative Commons.