One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A pink-flowered Mediterranean plant introduced into Britain, where it became a cornfield weed. It has since been almost eradicated because its poisonous seeds contaminate flour.
Agrostemma githago, family Caryophyllaceae
- ‘In many ways this is rural France's most appealing region, an area of winding back roads, of lost-and-gone hamlets, of tree-smothered hills and of wheat fields bright with poppies and corncockles.’
- ‘And some of them, such as poppies, cornflowers and corncockles are exquisitely beautiful as well.’
- ‘Other imports include the poisonous corncockle from the Mediterranean, the Himalayan balsam and the New Zealand willowherb, an aggressive weed.’
- ‘The flowers of the corncockle have undivided petals and are reddish-purple.’
- ‘An arable area at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens - part of the Go Wild festival - includes a crop with key colourful plants like common poppy, corn marigold and corncockle, plus some clover and a ‘game strip’ down one side.’
Early 18th century: from corn + cockle (from Old English coccul ‘corncockle’, perhaps via Latin from Greek kokkos ‘berry’).
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