One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A Eurasian plant of the spurge family, with hairy stems and small green flowers, found as a dominant plant of old woodland.
Mercurialis perennis, family Euphorbiaceae
- ‘We have been moving over open ground, with a backdrop of scar, then a gentle rise takes us into some woods with a carpet of dog's mercury, and also under the beeches wood avons with their shy nodding heads.’
- ‘So delve into Dawson's Lane, a sunken track with springs, closed in a bit by holly, rich in dog's mercury and busy with the paraphernalia of pheasant rearing.’
- ‘The woodland areas are dominated by ash, oak, birch and hazel with an interesting ground flora including dog's mercury, wood anemone and moschatel.’
- ‘Even on a late February afternoon, spring flowers were already well in evidence, especially butterbur, coltsfoot, dog's mercury, barren strawberry and even the odd primrose.’
- ‘The charcoal is made from the debris created in the forest-clearing practice known as coppicing, which allows light into the woodland environment, encouraging ancient woodland flowers such as dog's mercury, butterflies and dormice.’
Late 16th century: translating modern Latin Mercurialis canina (former taxonomic name); the plant is poisonous and is contrasted with Mercurialis annua ‘annual mercury’, useful in medicine.
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