Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Bloody cranesbill, it's a monkey flower!

Wandering aimlessly through wikipedia reminded me that the red rose as an emblem for Lancashire dates back to 1485 and the Battle of Bosworth. I assumed that the white rose of yorkshire dates back to similar times but another source (yorkshirehistory.com) casts doubt upon whether it has ever been officially sanctioned as a county emblem. Whatever.  My point concerns the recent proliferation of County Flowers.  Northumberland's is the bloody cranesbill. It's such a prominent and welcome addition to the dune flora along the coast here that its not at all a bad choice.  I might have made a case for Burnet Rose but I can live with Geranium sanguineum.

Admiring the bloody cranesbills on the Cocklawburn dunes near Berwick at the weekend set me wondering how this choice was made.  In fact, the county flower concept was only extended to cover the whole United Kingdom in 2002, as a promotional thing by the plant conservation charity Plantlife. They ran a competition to choose county flowers for all counties (and also a dozen or so major cities), to celebrate Liz's Golden Jubilee.  There is a full list with photos here.

There are some very peculiar choices.  London gets the rosebay willow herb. Wow. Newcastle upon Tyne, my home base, has the monkey flower of all things.  I'm blowed if I know where the monkey flowers are in Newcastle and anyway that honour should surely have been reserved for Hartlepool.  County Tyrone and Kirkcudbright seem to be fighting over the bog rosemary.  I bet both local Tourist Boards keep quiet about that one.  Still, it's all harmless fun.  Nominations for County Fungus anyone?


  1. Can't say I've ever seen monkey flower in Newcastle. Maybe some in Jesmond Deene???? It seems to be in decline in the region anyway - there's much less of it on the Tybe, Wear and Tees than when I first came up here, 35 years ago

  2. Hi Phil. Yes, could be the Dene I suppose but I've just found another reference on County flowers which says:-
    "Newcastle upon Tyne: Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus). From midsummer, the banks and shingles of the Tyne are bright with the yellow and red-spotted "monkey faces" of this non-native flower."

    I also came across reports of deep controversy in Sussex complete with allegations of vote rigging and disqualifications. (see http://archive.theargus.co.uk/2004/5/6/114243.html).
    Whew! Serious stuff.