Welsh, Hydyf. - French, Cresson, Chemise de notre Dame. - German, Gauchblume. - Dutch, Schuimblad. - Polish, Rze-zuchapolna. - Russian, Lugobui. - Spanish, Cardamindo. - Portuguese, Cardamina.
Cruciferaae. Pleurorhizeae. Arabidece.
"Looking down the meadows, I could see here a boy gathering lilies and lady-smocks, and there a girl cropping culverkeyes and cowslips: these, and many field-flowers, so perfumed the air that I thought the very meadow like that field in Sicily, of which Diodorus speaks, where the perfumes arising from the place, make all the dogs that hunt in it to fall off, and to lose the hottest scent;"such is one of the word-pictures in which good old Isaac Walton paints the spring, suggesting to us-, by a few broad touches, the pleasant time when, in the words of Professor Green; -
"Dewy meadows enamelled in gold and in green, With king-cups, and daisies, that all the year please, Sprays, petals, and leaflets that nod in the breeze, With carpets, and garlands, and wreaths, deck the way, And tempt the blithe spirit still onward to stray Itself its own home; - far away! far away, The butterflies flutter in pairs round the bower; The humble-bee sings in each bell of each flower, The bee hums of heather, and breeze-wooing hill, And forgets in the sunshine his toil and his skill.*
For that is pre-eminently the time when "By the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckooflowers" †
And "When daisies pied, and violets blue, And lady-smocks, all silver-white, And cuckoo-buds (ficaria?) of yellow hue, Do paint the meadows with delight - The cuckoo then, on every tree Sings cuckoo." ‡
What wonder, then, if its very name records how it blows when the cuckoo first begins to sing, and dies away before he leaves our northern land, thus associating itself so especially with the spring time, that its very scent, as we tread accidentally on its leaves, raises up - with that vividness which seems to exist in some peculiar relation between memory and the sense of smell - thoughts of spring; of the spring time of the year, and of the spring tide of life. As for the name of bread and milk, we know not its origin; nor is it of great importance to ascer-tain it; though it may be simply explained by the associations connected with the old custom among country people of having bread and milk for break-fast about the season when this flower first comes out; and the disappearance for a time of the other morning meal of chicken-broth or "townish tea," as they used sometimes disrespectfully to term.
* The learned Professor seems to have taken hyper-poetical license in this line - but we may forgive him!
† Tennyson. ‡ Shakespeare.
"The cup that cheers, but not inebriates," being ignorant of its growing importance, and not yet foreseeing how indispensable it would some day become at every breakfast-table. Such, then, seems to be the origin of the name Bread and milk; - the token that winter had passed away, and it may still remain a sign of the renewal of the spring time, even though no better reason for the appellation can be found. In the north, Dr. G. Johnston tells us, it is also termed pinks, spinks, or bog-spinks; and he quotes the following examples of its occurrence:-
"Or, can our flowers at ten hour's bell The gowan, or the spink excell?"*
"A secret frae you, dear bairn! What secret can come frae you, but some bit waefu' love story, eno' to make the spinks and the ewe-gowans blush to the very lip."†
But "bread and milk," like all its congeners, all the Cruciferae-, is also a pre-eminently useful herb; as is indicated in its botanical name, Garddmine, which is derived from the Greek words Cardia (heart); and Damas (to fortify), on account of its supposed tonic and invigorating powers. It is also a valuable anti-scorbutic, containing, in common with the whole family, a considerable quantity of sulphur and nitrogen. Hence its frequent use in spring diet, whether in the form of salads, or of a liquid procured by expressing the juice. In the latter case a wine-glass full is administered at bed-time by the country people for jaundice, scurvy, and several other complaints. Bay recommends an in-fusion of the flowers of the hairy bitter-cress (C. hir-suta) in hysterical affections.
† " Brownie o' Bodspeck".
Four species of the card amine are genuine na-tives of our islands; and a fifth (0. bellidifolia), of doubtful origin, has been found in Scotland and also in the county Clare. The four first are the large-flowered bitter-cress (C. amara), which is dis-tinguished from the common bitter-cress (0. pra-tense), by its large white and purple-anthered flowers, and by the broad "angulato-dentate leaflets of its upper leaves."* The last-named plant, the genuine lady's-smock, we need scarcely describe, so familiar must be all our readers with its pretty blush-tinged flowers; they are sometimes double, in which case, as indeed occurs frequently in all the car-damine tribe, young plants are produced from the old leaves, which, wherever they touch the ground, send forth roots and leaflets. These appear on the upper surface of the parent-leaf, from whence the long root-fibre creeps down until it reaches the soil below, when it, of course, no longer requires nourishment from the leaf from which it sprang, and a new plant is thus established.† This species inhabits the greater part of Europe, and occurs in Northern Asia, and in the vicinity of Hudson's Bay. *
* Hooker's "British Flora".
† See " Botany of Eastern Borders," etc.
The hairy bitter-cress (C. hirsutci) has very diminutive white flowers, and occurs in moist shady places, shunning the open fields which are the habitats of the already-named species.
More minute still are the blossoms of the narrow-leaved bitter-cress (C. impatiens), which is a very rare plant, frequenting moist rocks in the more northern of our counties, and in Scotland.
* See " Botany of Eastern Borders," etc.