Tousled pink flowers of Ragged-robin sway on their tall stems from late spring through to summer’s end.

Photo: © Natural England/Chris Gomersall

Scientific name: Lychnis flos-cuculi

What to look for:

Family: Caryophyllaceae (Campion family).
Flowers: Deep pink to reddish; occasionally white. Five petals, each divided into four narrow lobes.
Leaves: Narrow, elongated leaves
Height: Over 30 cm tall.
Where: Moist meadows, wet woodlands, across the UK. Native to Europe.
When: Flowers from May to August.
Habit: Upright perennial.

Less common than its ubiquitous cousin the Red Campion, the star-like pink flowers of Ragged-robin bob enticingly on the ends of their long stems. Beware, though – this fragile-looking plant likes moist and marshy meadows and wet woodland, so watch your feet don’t get wet if you want to approach for a closer look.

There are no prizes for guessing how it got its common name. The flowers do appear tousled and rather scruffy, with their divided petals, but no less pretty for that. They are not just attractive to humans: butterflies, bees and other pollinators enjoy a visit to collect nectar.

In Britain, Ragged-robin has been declining. This appears to be due to the widespread drainage of its habitat and changes in farming methods.

Did you know…?

…In folklore, it used to be thought that a Ragged-robin flower carried in the pocket would bring success in love.

…Ragged-robin is sometimes also called the Cuckooflower (not to be confused with the plant of the same common name – Cardamine pratensis). A few wild plants have associations in their name with the Cuckoo, presumably because they start to blossom in the spring as migrant Cuckoos begin to arrive.

More information and references:

Mabey, R., 1997. Flora Britannica. Chatto & Windus, London.

Rose, F. and O’Reilly, C., 2006. The Wild Flower Key, 2nd edition. Frederick Warne, London.

Stace, C., 2010. New Flora of the British Isles, 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Published: June 2016
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Upper – © Natural England/Chris Gomersall; below – Amanda Scott

Ragged Robin on The Lizard, Cornwall