Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Keck, Kicksies and Cow Parsley

Only a couple of days ago I was having a whinge about the greyness of the weather. Today the sun is shining brightly, rapidly clearing away the traces of early-morning mist. Two cock blackbirds were squaring up to each in a territorial dispute in my back garden and our neighbour's Shrubby Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is becoming wreathed in blossom. It bore a handful of flowers as early as 2nd January and it will be interesting to see which insects are the first to pay them a visit.

In Banbury Lane the leaves of Keck are pushing through. In most floras it is called Cow Parsley but around Northampton as kids we always called the plant keck (The word is dismissed by Chambers' Dictionary as a "false singular").  In his Asylum Poems John Clare refers to "Kicksies white" and the plant has a host of other regional names. At Byfield Coffee Club earlier today friends came up with 'Queen Anne's Lace' and 'Lady's Needlework'. The plant caught my eye this morning because one of the leaves bore a leaf mine (a brown patch at the top of the photograph). It is the work of a small fly, Phytomyza chaerophylli, a common and widespread insect. The plant suffers little or no harm and in a few weeks it will be carrying a froth of white flowers.

The stems of this plant were once used - and perhaps still are - as a sweet pickle and many of its close relatives such as chervil, parsley and angelica are still used in the kitchen.


  1. Growing up in the Cotswolds, we always called it keck. I remember as a young boy hearing old men discussing a young motorcyclist with a habit for reckless speed on winding lanes, "going round the bends with his yud [head] in the keck".

  2. Interesting as where I grew up in Wigston in Leicestershire we always called hedge parsley keck.

  3. As a child I always knew Cow Parsley as Kecksies (Cambridgeshire Fens), interesting it's the name John Clare used - not far away just NW of Peterborough.

  4. Just came across this blog as I was trying to remember what my Granny called cow parsley. She called it ladies lace, but it was the word keck that I couldn't remember. So glad to find this and hopefully I will remember now. Granny grew up in Wigston (a Broughton/Matthews).