Look at but don’t touch this native plant species

Each month we are sharing a local plant species to highlight the nature and biodiversity right here on our doorstep in Brighton & Hove.  

Most of our local plants are perfectly suited and adapted to live in urban landscapes and often help other plants to thrive by fixing nutritional imbalances in soil.    

This month we are putting the spotlight on Lords and Ladies, also known as cuckoo-pint or Arum maculatum. 

Lords and ladies 

Lords and ladies is a shade-loving plant mostly found in woodlands and hedgerows and indicates older, less tampered with soils. 

As an early flowering plant, its vibrant green arrow-shaped leaves adorn the ground from March, while its distinctive tube-like sheath flowers appear from April to May.  

Lords and ladies is pollinated by flies, especially midges, with an ingenious entrapment method using the sheath.    

Its upright stalk turns to bright orange-red berries in the autumn. These are eaten by woodland birds such as blackbirds and thrushes, providing a good source of food in late summer and autumn.  

Birds then disperse the seeds from the berries, with new plants often emerging under hedges or in ground under areas where birds perch.  

Look, but don’t touch  

Cheyenne Plant, Sustainability Officer at Brighton & Hove City Council, said: “Lords and ladies begins as a rather ordinary looking plant, but a striking fleshy leaf-like hood appears from the ground in mid-spring.  

“Although the unique stalk and vibrant coloured berries attract flies and birds, this plant is toxic to humans. The saponins in the berries can lead to swelling, burning and difficulty breathing if eaten in large quantities, while the sap produced may cause allergic reactions, blistering and burning.  

“If you come across lords and ladies in the wild, exercise caution and look, but don’t touch to avoid any potential irritation.” 

Biodiversity in Brighton & Hove 

Biodiversity is our planet’s life support system. Restoring nature underpins the health and wellbeing of people and wildlife in an era of climate change.   

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