The lanes are bordered with foam – hedges here are mostly hawthorn, or may (bringing to mind the country saying about ne'er casting a clout till may be out, particularly apt yesterday, when wind and rain had moved in after Saturday's glorious sunshine), while along the verges a froth of Queen Anne's Lace dances in the gusts, its delicate heads weighted by raindrops.
My recent post with its picture of heartsease reminds me that country names here and across the Atlantic may differ. In North America Queen Anne's Lace seems to refer to the wild carrot (daucus carota) whereas I was brought up to use the name for anthriscus sylvestris, also known as cow parsley or, most unattractively, kecks, which according to Geoffrey Grigson in The Englishman's Flora, refers to the hollow stalks (presumably for the same reason that in some parts of northern England "kecks" also refers to trousers, and even knickers).
Anthriscus sylvestris is listed as a culinary herb, although not one of great value, with dire warnings about not muddling it up with the somewhat similar hemlock (conium maculatum) – though, since hemlock stinks of mice, it's hard to see how anyone could. Grigson points out that the similarity between umbellifer flowers has led to much overlapping of names, hence the different usage in the US, where they attach a legend to the appearance of wild carrot: Queen Anne was a great lacemaker, and challenged the ladies of the court to make something as delicate as the flowerhead – none except the Queen could, but she pricked her finger, and that's why the wild carrot has a drop of red at the centre. Grigson, more prosaically, suggests that the plant is named is for Saint Ann, sister of the Virgin Mary.
Anthriscus sylvestris has strong associations with the Devil and witchcraft, too, reflected in some of its other names: devil's oatmeal and hare's parsley, oldrot and gipsy's curtains. Perhaps the prettiest, however, is its Wiltshire name of moonlight - think I might start calling it that. The maytree too, has attractive alternatives, but I'll save them for another post.
This pretty spiraea echoes the effect of the Queen Anne's Lace and mayblossom