Yesterday I wrote about walking around the racecourse and ended the post with a photo of cow parsley. Today the top photo is a different umbellifer. I think it’s probably common hogweed, which I’m assuming might be a relation, as it’s also known as cow parsnip.
For those who haven’t made the connection, umbelliferous flowers are arranged on short stalks that radiate from a common point, like the ribs of an umbrella.
What I didn’t know until a moment ago, when I checked the terminology, is that umbels can be simple (a single set of stalks) or compound, like the plant in the photo, where each stalk ends not with a single flower, but with a secondary set of radiating stalks. Apparently, these secondary umbels are known as umbellules. And that’s the first time I’ve ever used that word.
But I digress.
Yesterday I was wandering through buttercup fields in summer sandals and a sleeveless top. Today, it has not been weather for walking, unless wrapped up warm in a couple of sweaters and a windcheater. I’m not sure it’s actually managed to rain, but if it did, you’d have wanted waterproofs not an umbrella, which would have turned inside out before you’d got it open.
Given the inclement weather, although the may is definitely out, and, indeed, has been for some weeks, I think we’ll just have to accept that “ne’r cast a clout till May be out” is referring to the month not the blossom.
The “clout” in question refers to an article of clothing, and I wonder whether the child who cast a shoe on the racecourse was aware of the saying. (Yes, I know it’s really talking about winter woollies, rather than shoes, but I don’t think we should be expecting to go bare foot for a while yet.)