Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
Gaelic names: Caorag Lèana, Sìoda-lus
This wildflower shares the name cuckoo flower with lady's smock. It is also known as crow flower, meadow spink, bachelor's buttons, thunder flower, Polly Baker, and Shaggy Jacks.
Ragged robin is a member of the carnation and pink family, as are the closely related campions, well represented in the Western Isles by sea campion , white campion, red campion,and moss campion.
The flowers of ragged robin appear in May through to August and are normally pale to deep pink, however sometimes white flowers can be found. The flowers are about one inch across (2.5cm). The petals are divided into two or three lobes giving the flower a ragged appearance, hence it's common name.
Ragged robin has a rosette of low-growing foliage with several flower stems 1 to 2 feet tall. It is a hardy perennial growing as far North as Iceland. It is a native plant of the Western Isles.
Ragged Robin is a plant to bring wildlife into your garden
Butterflies love ragged robin, especially the white species, and also the common blue. (That would be a very pretty picture...).
Ragged robin is the food plant of the long-tongued bumblebees, and the several species of moths. It also attracts hoverflies.
The stems have barbed hairs pointing downward to prevent insects that seek a snack from destroying the ragged robin's delicate petals.
Growing Ragged Robin
Unfortunately ragged robin is in decline in the UK, mostly due to it's prefered wet meadow habitat being drained. It is becoming popular as a cultivated plant, and people are chooosing to grow it in their wildlife gardens.
Ragged robin seed can be sown March - April or August - September (spring sowing is likely best in the Western Isles). Sow the seed into a weed free seedbed, (you can help spread the seed mix with weed free dry sand). Lightly rake over and then firm the ground afterward and water it.
If you grow ragged robin from seed in the greenhouse, plant it out in the spring or autumn. (spring for the best chance of doing well in the Western Isles). It will grow happily in sun or partial shade. Ragged robin is found naturally in damp meadows and woods or flushes.
Ragged robin can be purchased in the UK as plug-plants from a number of suppliers. The plugs cost about £7.50 per 16 plants (plus p&p). Seeds are about £2 per 10g.
If you are planting ragged robin in a meadow, don't cut the grass during the flowering months. This wildflower self seeds well.
Deadheading the plant will encourage it to bloom again until August. Clumps can be divided in April. Cutting down flower stems in autumn will not harm the plant.
Ragged Robin in Folklore
Ragged robin is sometimes called thunder flower
Three centuries ago girls carried ragged robin, naming each plant for a local boy. The flower that opened first would have the name of the boy the girl would marry.
In another tradition that men would carry ragged robin in their pockets, whether the plant thrived or not indicated success in love.
In the language of flowers ragged robin represents ardour, and also is a symbol for wit.
Photography © Frank Stark
Leurbost - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
16th May, 2007
Frank's web site of his nature photography