Cuckoo pint

There can’t be many more quintessentially verdant places than a wood in early May, although what Bill Oddie loves about this time of the year is the trees are in different stages, some of these oaks are in full leaf, some of them almost wintry looking still. Only a couple of weeks ago this place would have been in a carpet of yellow with lesser celandine which are looking a bit floppy now. But just like in the garden in early May there’s another wave: bluebells, wood ruff, bugle. But if you want to see a really spooky plant growing right by the side of the road but easily overlooked, it’s this one - a whole bunch of wild arums. Now you may not know them as that because this flower has more names than any other British flower and let’s face it most of them are a bit naughty. For example cuckoo pint. Not naughty? It was if you were an Anglo-Saxon 'cos apparently cuckoo meant lively, if you know what I mean, and pint meant um... well come on, what does that look like? There’s some slightly less smutty names - parson in his pulpit, or baby in the cradle, lords and ladies or lovers. To be honest most of them are a bit naughty. But it’s kind of appropriate because the sex life of this flower really is rather extraordinary. What happens is normally it’s got two sections - the bit in the middle and the hood. The hood is often closed up, but when the bit in the middle gets really excited it becomes erect, proud and purple, slightly warm to the touch, and it has in fact got a rather subtle aroma which is lost on Bill, but is totally irresistible to insects. So in the insects go into this bulbous bit at the bottom, where they’re rewarded with a meal of nectar and in return they get themselves covered in pollen. What happens to the wild arum once the act has been consummated? Well, talk about nature imitating humanity - look it goes all droopy and shrivelled.

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