This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The present distribution of Black Bryony is the North Temperate Zone in Europe, south of Belgium, N. Africa, to Asia, and it is unknown in ancient deposits. In Great Britain it is found throughout the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, Anglia, and Severn provinces, but is not found in Radnor in S. Wales, Montgomery or Merioneth in N. Wales, occurring in the Trent, Mersey, Humber, Tyne, and Lakes provinces generally, except in the Isle of Man, or from Belgium southwards, and in the Channel Islands.
Black Bryony is common enough in England, growing usually in hedges, either by the roadside or in fields, scarcely a hedge in some districts being without it, while the White Bryony is far from general. It is also to be found in moist woods.
Black Bryony has the twining or climbing habit, the shoots revolving in two and a half to three hours. The rootstock is large, egg-shaped, subterranean, black, and fleshy. The stems are very long, slender, angular or round, branched. The leaves are undivided, egg-shaped to heart-shaped, acute, with a long narrow point, obscurely lobed laterally, long-stalked, glossy, 5-7-nerved, net-veined as in Dicotyledons, the lip bristle-like. The stipules are bent backwards.
The flowers have a bell-shaped perianth, and are small, yellowish-green, and regular, in axillary racemes on long stalks. The plant is dioecious. The male flowers are solitary or grouped in slender racemes, branched at the base, with 6 stamens inserted on the base of the perianth-segments. The female flowers are in shorter racemes, bent back, few-flowered, with a perianth adhering to the ovary, and short functionless stamens. The bracts are very small. The limb of the perianth is 5-partite. There is a single style. The berry is red, oblong, few-seeded, imperfectly 3-celled.
Black Bryony is a perennial plant, propagated by the root, which is fleshy and black. The plant is a climber. It flowers from May to June.
The stamens open inwards. The stigmas are bilobed and bent backwards. Pollination by insects is a necessary precursor to fertilization in this plant. The male flowers are in lax racemes, and solitary or branched; the female flowers are in short racemes, which are recurved, and have few flowers. In the allied Dioscorca only rudimentary flowers are produced.
Photo. L. R. J. Horn - Black Bryony (tamus Communis, L.)
The fruit is a berry, which is red when ripe, and attractive to birds, but usually dispersed by falling to the ground around the parent plant.
Black Bryony is a clay-loving plant, and addicted to a clay soil, or partly a sand-loving plant, and found on sand soil.
Tamus, Gesner, Pliny says, was used as asparagus, as a diuretic, and for spleen. In Tuscany it is called tamaro, and is now eaten as asparagus there. The second Latin name refers to its wide distribution.
The plant is called Adder's Meat, Adder's Poison, Bead Bind, Bindweed, Broyant, Bryony, Black Bryony, Elphamy, Isle of Wight Vine, Lady's Seal, Mandrake, Murrain Berries, Oxberry, Poison Berry, Roberry, Rowberry, Rueberry, Rollberry, Serpent's Meat, Snakeberry, Snake's Food, Wild Vine.
It is called Serpent's Meat where an idea prevails that snakes are always lurking about the places where it grows, perhaps by Doctrine of Signatures, on account of its serpentine habit. In Montgomery it is used to rub on the joints of animals, especially of pigs, that are lame from a disease which is there called Broyant. It is called Oxberry because the berries are collected by the farmers as a cure for barrenness in cattle. It was named Our Lady's Seal because of the supposed efficacy of its roots, when spread in a plaster, and applied to heal up a scar or bruises. It is a climbing plant, which hibernates by tubers formed by a lateral outgrowth of the first two internodes of the stem.
Essential Specific Characters: 299. Tamus communis, L. - Stem twining, wiry, leaves shiny, cordate, acute, plant dioecious, flowers in axillary racemes, yellowish-green, berry red.
Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum, L.)
This common hedgerow plant is distributed throughout the N. Temperate Zone in Europe from Gothland southward, N. Africa, and is not represented in early deposits. Cuckoo Pint, as it is also widely styled, is found generally throughout England and Wales; in the E. Lowlands only in Roxburgh, Berwick, Edinburgh; in the Highlands only in Stirling, Mid and East Perth, Dumbarton, Clyde Islands, S. Ebudes; or from Caithness southward, and up to 1000 ft. in N. England. It is doubtfully wild in Scotland, and grows in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Lords and Ladies is a peculiar plant, having likes and dislikes, just as Dog's Mercury, Red Campion, Greater Stitchwort, and some other common species, for certain areas. It is a shade plant, fond of growing in woods and under hedges, and is not a lover of sand, but rather of mild humus.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Cuckoo Pint is its curious flower. There is no true stem, and the leaves all spring from the base of the tuberous root, which is used as sago. The leaves are net-veined (which is unusual in monocotyledons), spear- or arrow-shaped, with long lobes behind, the surface glossy green, spotted with black patches (hence the second Latin name), stalked, with sheaths at the base, enclosing the spathe, triangular and channelled above.
The inflorescence of this monoecious plant, with male and female, with the spathes open, after pollination flowers, consists of a spadix, club-shaped, pink or purple, narrow below, borne on a smooth, rounded scape, and enclosed within a thin, white spathe, often yellowish-green, swollen below; and at the base are the oval ovaries. Below, the stamens and the stigmas are bearded with long hairs. No styles are found. The spathe falls off when ripe. The berries are scarlet.
Photo. B. Hanley
Lords And Ladies (Arum Maculatum, L.)
Cuckoo Pint is a foot high, and flowers about April and May. It is perennial, propagated by seeds.
Cuckoo Pint is proterogynous, and the female flowers open first and lose the chance of being pollinated before the anthers on the same plant, which are above, are ripe. So that it is necessary for fresh pollen to be brought from other flowers for cross-pollination to take place. The plant's own pollen drops to the bottom of the tube, useless, unless carried away.
This mode of crossing is effected by flies, which creep down the wide, conspicuous spathe, the plant attracting, by its ammonia-like smell, small Diptera (Psychoda) into the lower part This forms a prison for the time being. When they reach the metamorphosed stamens or hairs, which point downwards (and at first act as a chevaux de frise around the lower part of the spadix), they are effectually prevented afterwards, did they so wish, to do so at once, or until a certain time, from returning, though entrance is easy.
The stigmas are at the base of the spadix and are mature first, and if the flies bring pollen, from anthers, from another flower at a later stage they cross-pollinate the plant. It is considered by Father Gerard, S.J., that the liquor secreted by the stigmas has a stupefying effect on the flies, which are found killed and digested in the inner part of the spathe, so that the plant is in this sense apparently insectivorous.
During the second stage the stigmatic papillae wither, and a drop of sweet liquid appears in the middle of each stigma as a reward, whilst in the third stage the anthers open and pollen falls on the floor of the chamber, and can hardly fail to dust the flies. When the palisade of hairs withers, these helpful insects pass out and may enter another flower in the first stage. The flowers are visited by Ceratopagon, Chironomus, Sciara, Psychoda, Limosina, Drosophila.
The fruit is a berry, fleshy, and red when ripe, poisonous, but eaten sometimes by birds and man. Usually the berries fall when ripe around the parent plant.
Cuckoo Pint is a humus-loving plant, growing in a humus soil, and largely a clay-loving plant, preferring clay to sand.
Two fungi, Protomyces ari and one stage of Puccinia phalaridis, grow on this plant.
A moth, the Lesser Broad-border (Triphcena ianthina), is found upon it.
Arum, Dioscorides, is from an Arabic root, and the second Latin name refers to the spotted leaves.
This queer plant is known by a variety of names, Aaron, Adam-and-Eve, Adders-meat, Adder's-tongue, Aron, Arrowroot, Bloody Man's Fingers, Bobbin-and-Joan, Bobbins, Buckrams, Bulls-and-Cows, Bulls-and-wheys, Calf's-foot, Cocky-baby, Cow-and-calves, Cuckoo-babies, Cuckoo, Cock, Cuckoo-flower, Cuckoo-pint, Cuckoo-pintle,
Cuckoo-point, Cuckoo-spit, Dead Man's Fingers, Devil's Ladies-and-Gentlemen, Devil's Men-and-Women, Dog-bobbins, Dog's Spear, Dog's Dibble, Dog's Tansle, Great or Small Dragon, Dragon's Fingers, Lords and Ladies' Fingers, Friar's Cowl, Gentlemen-and-Ladies, Gethsemane, Jack-in-Box, Kings and Queens, Lady's Fingers, Lamb-in-a-pulpit, Lamb Lakins, Lily-grass, Lords and Ladies, Mandrake, Nightingales, Parson and Clerk or Parson-in-the-Pulpit, Parson, Pillicods, Pintle Wort, Priest's Pintle, Quaker's Rampe, Ramps, Ram's Horn, Schoolmaster, Snake's Food or Snake's Meat, Snake's Victuals, Starch-root, Starch Wort, Wake Pintle, Wake Robin, Wild Lily.
The red berries are men and the green women, hence Devil's Men-and-Women. Holme says: "This is of some called Frier's Cowle because of the hooding of the pestle, when it is springing forth." The light spadices represent ladies, the dark gentlemen, hence Ladies-and-Gentlemen and Lords and Ladies, Adam-and-Eve, Bulls-and-Cows; but as to the first, Holloway quaintly says: "So called, I presume, from the stately appearance the blossom has by being partially enclosed and protected by the sheath, so that the flower appears as though it were a kind of state chair or carriage."
The spadices are like bobbins in use formerly in Bucks, hence the name Bobbins.
" Where peep the gaping speckled Cuckoo flowers, Prizes to rambling schoolboys' vacant hours."
As it was supposed to be associated with the evil one it was also called Devil's Ladies-and-Gentlemen. The spots were ascribed to drops of blood from the Cross. Half-starved bears, after hibernating, are said to be restored by eating it, and its juice was thought to be good for the plague.
The root is insipid and mucilaginous, but pungent afterwards. It loses the bitter taste when dry, and the roots are farinaceous, and were formerly used as Portland Starch, but it is difficult to remove the poisonous principle and is not much used. It is stimulating and diaphoretic. The root has been used for soap and juice for cosmetics, cypress powder. It has been applied for asthma and dropsy.
Essential Specific Characters: 311. Arum maculatum, L. - Scape with leaves sheathed at the base on long petioles, leaves sagittate, spotted, flower in spathe twice as long as the spadix, which is clavate, berries scarlet.