Information on Cuckooflower

Common Name: Cuckooflower
Scientific Name: Cardamine pratensis
Irish Name: Biolar gréagháin
Family Group: Brassicaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Cuckooflower could sometimes be confused with:


This is a hairless perennial which tends to favour wet habitats such as marshes and damp meadows.  It is also known as 'Lady's Smock' as the flower was said to resemble a milkmaid's smock.  Its 12-20mm flowers have four broad, overlapping, lilac-pink, pink or white petals and appear in April, lasting until June.  It has broad root leaves in a loose rosette while its stem leaves are narrow with numerous leaflets. Its seeds are contained in elongated, smooth, ascending siliquas.  It is a larval foodplant of the Orange-tip butterfly.  It is a native plant and belongs to the large family Brassicaceae.  

I first identified this plant in 1976 in Roundwood, Co Wicklow and photographed it in Laragh, Co Wicklow in 1988 and Gibletstown, Co Wexford in 2006. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

The name 'Cuckooflower' was explained by 16thc. herbalist, John Gerard as 'These flower for the most part in April and May when the Cuckoo begins to sing her pleasant notes without stammering'

'When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver white
And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then on every tree
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
Cuckoo, cuckoo: O, word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!'

Love's Labour Lost.    William Shakespeare  (1564-1616)