Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum)

Lords-and-Ladies, also called Cuckoo-pint is a native wild flower. It was known in Irish as Cluas Chaoin meaning Narrow Ear and Cluas an Ghabhair meaning Goat's Ear, conveying a similar illustration of the shape of the spathe. Lords and Ladies grow to a height 12-18 inches and are recognised by their bright red berries in the autumn.

Most parts of this plant are poisonous particularly the berries which can be fatal if eaten by children. In spring the leaves emerge from the ground and are later followed by a pale green sheath-like leaf called a spathe. Within the spathe is the flower head a purple/brown colour called a spadix. It flowers in April and May. The plant is found growing under trees and on roadsides.

At one time it was frequently seen in South Dublin suburbs but in recent years it tends to be confined to wooded areas such as Killiney Hill and the fast disappearing wood at Belfield. Lords-and-Ladies do not grow in North East Co Dublin due to intensive cultivation there since the Middle Ages.

The root which looks like a small potato, when baked is edible and nutritious. At one time this was sold under the name Portland Sago which was made a pudding for invalids. During the 16th century starch from the root was used for stiffening ruffs. However this had the detrimental effect of severe blistering on the users hands and the practice ceased for several years.

Despite this according to the herbalist Caleb Threlkeld the fresh roots were bruised and distilled in cow's milk, made into a remedy for cleansing the face and hands from blemishes, spots, freckles, scruff and wrinkles!. Medicinally, an ointment was made for the treatment of ringworm by stewing the fresh root with lard and applying it locally.

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