This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Cruciferae. Lungwort has a creeping rootstock, from which arise stalked, ovate, hairy leaves, dark green in colour, with white blotches. On the erect flowering stem the leaves are smaller and not stalked. The flowers consist of a five-angled calyx, a funnel-shaped corolla with five lobes, five stamens, style arising from a group of four nutlets and terminated by a rounded stigma. Like the cowslip, Lungwort is dimorphous. It secretes plenty of honey, and is consequently much visited by bees. Before the flowers open they are pink, but afterwards change to purple. As a garden flower it is also known as the Jerusalem Cowslip.
Lady's Smock. Cuckoo-flower. Shepherd's purse.
Cardamine pratensis. Gapsella bursa-pastoris.
The name is from the Latin, Pulmo, the lungs, in allusion to the leaves, spotted like the lungs, and which under the doctrine of signatures was held to indicate that it was good for consumption and other lung troubles.
There is another species which is really indigenous to this country, the Narrow-leaved Lungwort (P. angustifolia), but it is very rare, and occurs only in the Isle of Wight, the New Forest, and in Dorset. It is taller than P. officinalis, the leaves of a different shape, and the corolla finally bright blue.
In all moist meadows and swampy places, from April to June, the eye is pleased with a multitude of waving flowers which in the aggregate look white, but at close quarters are seen to be a pale pink or lilac. They are Shakespeare's "Lady's smocks all silver-white," that "paint the meadows with delight." It is our first example of the Cruciferous plants, the four petals of whose flowers are arranged in the form of a Maltese cross. Its leaves are cut up into a variable number of leaflets; those from the roots having the leaflets more or less rounded, those from the stem narrower. The radical leaves as they lie on the wet ground root at every leaflet, and develop a tiny plant from each. The flowers are nearly f of an inch across. There are three other native species : Hairy Bitter Cress (C. hirsuta), with white flowers, 1/8 th of an inch in diameter ; anthers yellow.
Large-flowered Bitter Cress (C. amara), with creamy white flowers ½ inch in diameter ; anthers purple. Riversides : rare.
Narrow-leaved Bitter-Cress (C. impatiens), white flowers, J inch across ; anthers yellow. Shady copses, local.
Name from the Greek Kardamon, a kind of watercress.
One need not travel far to find a specimen of Shepherd's Purse, for almost any spot of earth that man has tilled will furnish it. Wherever his fork or spade has gone in temperate regions this plant has gone with him, and stayed. The flowers are very minute, white, and are succeeded by the heart-shaped seed-vessel (capsule) which gives its name to the whole plant, from its resemblance to an ancient form of rustic pouch. This splits into two valves, and the numerous seeds drop out. The only native species: flowers throughout summer.
Name: Latin, diminutive of Capsula, a little box.