I kid you not – Lungwort really is this wildflower’s common name (scientific name: Pulmonaria officinalis). And why? Well, it goes back to the times when people believed that the physical qualities of a plant – its shape, colour, features – reflected its uses (a theory also known as the doctrine of signatures). In this case, the freckled oval-shaped leaves were thought to resemble diseased lungs (and I thought I had a good imagination!) and so the plant was (and still is) used as a treatment for various respiratory ailments.
Those blotchy leaves are also the reason for one of the plant’s many common names, ‘Mary-spilt-the-milk’. And the variety of pinks and blues in its flowers are behind its other vernacular names, ‘Jacob’s coat’ and ‘Soldiers and Sailors’ – all much more understandable.