You may not recognise either of the names in the title of this post, but do not worry both have many other names that you will almost certainly be familar with.
Arum maculatum, is a member of the family Araceae. According to Heywood et al. (2007) (but see Stace, 2010) Araceae is rather diverse family, ranging from the pond dwelling duckweed (on campus in the URS pond) to the ‘often potted’ plants of the genus Zamioculcas. But the species Arum maculatum, is more commonly known in the UK by the name Lords & Ladies, flowering through spring in the campus woodland.
That isn’t the only name it carries though, it has been called Devils & Angels, Adam & Eve, Cuckoo Pint, Stallions & Mares, Adder’s Meat, Wake Robin or even Naked Boys, and that isn’t even close to the total (Grigson, 1974). Sean Combs or Diddy/Puff Daddy/P Diddy or – acording to the ever trustworthy wikipedia – Puff and Puffy can only total 6, even with the naff ones.
The 2 part names, such as Lords & Ladies, refers to the unisexual nature of the flowers. Adder’s Meat is a name to suggest A.maculatum is not worth eating, like the meat of an Adder. Also many of the names have sexual connotations due to the shape of the plant parts – particularly the pointed central collection of flowers known as the spadix.
Lynden Swift’s website, http://www.wildarum.co.uk/Chapters/Names/ provides an entertaining summary of some of these terms and many more, if this provokes you. The history of names, both scientific and common can often provide interesting stories or facts that help to remember certain species.
The photos in the text are used under Creative Commons licence, I have no rights or ownership over them. The heading photo of several duckweed species is my own and as with the text I am willing for it to be used by anyone for any means.
Grigson, G. (1974). A Dictionary of English Plant Names. Allen Lane, Cambridge.
Heywood, V.H., Brummit, R.K., Culham, A. & Seberg, O. (2007). Flowering Plant Families of the World. Firefly Books, Ontario, Canada.
Stace, C.A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press.