Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley in a vase


I love May for many reasons… but I think my favourite reason is the appearance of the beautiful Cow Parsley. Around the lanes the verges are transformed into soft, frothy covered corridors that make any journey to work so much more pleasant!

I know that most people see these plants as weeds but there is something so intriguing about a plant that has such delicate flowers but is as tough as old boots!

We were never allowed to bring Cow Parsley into the house when we were young as it was viewed by my superstitious family as extremely unlucky (along with Peacock feathers & Hawthorn… but that’s another story!). In many areas Cow Parsley was known as “Mother-Die” as it was believed that death would befall the Mother in the household if this flower was bought indoors. I’m not overly superstitious but I’d hate to tempt fate so the Cow Parsley can stay outside in the fields!

The flowers look lovely in a vase (picture on left downloaded from Pinterest) but they do drop their flowers very quickly when cut so are better for outdoor arrangements… or left where they grow!

What a difference a week makes in May! The greens are so… green! There is new growth and sense of “make haste” everywhere and this is made even better by the longer days and the return of the swallows.

Mr Fox is prowling very close to the lovely chickens but their enclosure is doing a good job of keeping him out. As much as I love to let the girls out to have a scratch and stretch their wings they will be safely staying put until the fox has moved on!

The rabbits have behaved themselves too and the garden sign remains in place. This is especially important as the lettuce leaves and carrots look particularly good!

I don’t think there are too many people that remember the old fashioned superstitions and remedies… and what a shame that is! Some are based on common sense, others are from a time when history was passed on through story telling and finally some were family traditions and superstitions (like the image of an elephant should not be kept in the house as it’s extremely bad luck… I think that this is just my family though!!??). It’s a mad world… but wouldn’t it be a little dull otherwise?

29 thoughts on “Cow Parsley

  1. I love the old rhymes and country lore – they are part of the richness and diversity of our language and culture.
    I’m beginning to think that you’ve a secret army of bunnies that arrives every night just to eat the weeds! As usual your garden is immaculate perfection.

    • Oh – that’s too kind! I will be brave one day and take a photo of the other side of my “garden” that is full of thistles, nettles and old pallets. This is a little oasis of neatness in a jungle!! Honestly!

  2. I love seeing cow parsley on the roadside verges too – and also when it goes to seed – so sculptural – I would love to have it in my garden but have a feeling it would seed everywhere.

  3. I love cow parsley. We had cow parsley flower arrangements at our wedding. What do you think the superstition means for us? Oh dear! Her x

    • I come from a family who are generally superstitious… I think that the reason for fear is that Cow Parsley can easily be confused with Hemlock. In olden days this mistake could be fatal so this is where the folklore came in. Cow Parsley is so pretty so it means you have good taste… just don’t eat it! Ha ha!!

  4. Cow Parsley is one of my favourite plants in the wild and even in the garden. We allow a few to grow each year in our mixed borders but cut the flower stems out just before they set seeds. Mind you we always miss at least one!

  5. I’ve never heard of these two superstitions – either the cow parsley in the house, or the elephant’s image. I always wonder what started the superstition. Surely someone had to think that was the reason for their (or another’s) bad luck or illness.

    • I think that Cow Parsley is similar to Hemlock which could be a dangerous mistake. In years gone by it was probably safer just to ban both from the house to save confusion! Elephants…. I will have to dig further!

  6. I went for an elderflower seeking walk yesterday, all I could find was cow parsley! Beautiful though it is. Your garden is looking very lovely

  7. I did not know of this superstition, and I brought it in the house as a child many times to put in vases or make necklaces. Guess my luck held out. πŸ™‚ I like how you have arranged it in the vases…lovely!

  8. I was told picking Dandelions would make you wet the bed. As a gardener constantly picking the damned things, I’m permanently incontinent!! lol

  9. I share your love of cow parsley and am hoping to encourage it to grow on the edges of my allotment. But a good annual is Ammi (see Sarah Raven’s catalogue for seeds/young plants) and I think this is safe to have indoors πŸ™‚ As for the elephants indoors, shouldn’t you make sure they face the door so that when they stampede they can get out? At least that’s what I’ve heard! Lovely blog btw.

    • Thank you so much for your kind comments! I love Sarah Raven so I’ll have a look for the Ammi as it sounds lovely.
      I know a lot of people face elephants towards the door and it’s particular obvious in restaurants and public places… my family have banned them altogether (including on birthday cards, cuddly toys etc) but I’m determined to get to the bottom of it!

  10. Interesting about the stems being used by kids as whistles. In Holland where I live this plant is called ‘fluitekruid’ which means flute or whistle herb. These days they are absolutely all over the place, and with their very characteristic and pervasive scent they really are so typical of spring/early summer.

  11. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but I am wondering if cow parsley is similar to what we call Queen Anne’s Lace? If so, we have it here too in a wild and woolly variety and also a tamed cultivar that I just recently planted in my garden. I love it also, my mother and grandmother’s gardens are full of the tamer variety and it makes me think of home!

  12. I always thought the peacock feather in the house superstition was just my family. I remember as a young child my grandmother was given a peacock feather and not long after my grandfather had a stroke. My grandmother joked that it was the bad luck from the peacock feather, but she kept it anyway saying its bad luck had been all used up. I was always scared of that feather after that and would never bring one into the house!

    • My family have some very odd beliefs – I really must jot some down! My Mum’s family are extremely superstitious about elephants which is a bit odd when we live in England!

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