Lords and Ladies (sorry Rachel, not Sir Terry Pratchett’s novel) - Arum maculatum
On my walks I have been greeted by the fiery red heads of the berries of this poisonous perennial plant.
Arum maculatum is a common woodland plant across most of Europe. It is also known by many common names including snakes-head, adder's root, arum, wild arum, arum lily, lords-and-ladies, devils and angels, cows and bulls, cuckoo-pint, soldiers diddies, Adam and Eve, bobbins, naked girls, naked boys, starch-root, wake robin, friar's cowl, sonny-give-us-your-hand, jack in the pulpit and cheese and toast. The name "lords-and-ladies" and other gender-related names refer to the plant's likeness to male and female genitalia.
In spring, the young leaves look similar to those of wild garlic, if the lack of garlic aroma is missed or some leaves accidently get picked at the same time, fortunately the oxalates found in Arum, which are needle-shaped crystals, irritate the skin, mouth, tongue, and throat, resulting in throat swelling, breathing difficulties, burning pain, and stomach upset, almost immediately, so severe poisoning is extremely rare.
The same also goes for the pretty orange berries I have been seeing, their apparently unpleasant taste (no I have not eaten one, deciding that may be taking researching for a blog a little too far!!) and the tingling in the mouth which begins quite quickly, mean that large amounts are rarely ingested and serious harm is usually avoided.
The root is rendered edible if very well roasted, when in the past it was ground and sold as Portland sago, which was used to make a drink popular in the 18th and 19th century called saloop (this is the spelling for this particular drink). It was also used as a substitute for arrowroot, as well as to make starch for altar cloths and other church linens.
Having sat with the plant shown in my picture, these are my thoughts on what Lords and Ladies correspond to:
Element: earth and fire Planet: Moon and Mercury Gender: feminine and male
As for the magical properties: banishing, defence, uncovering secrets, working with gnomes.
However, extreme caution would be necessary if intending to harvest and dry any part of this plant: wearing gloves, as well as ensuring clear labelling, out of the reach of children or those with poor eyesight.
Sources: www.thepoisongarden.co.uk www.wildflowerfinder.org.uk www.plant-lore.com www.botanical.com www.wikipedia.org