Cuckoo pint is a woodland flowering plant species. It is native across most of Europe, as well as Turkey and the Caucasus.
The flower has a strong faecal odour and can be up to 15oC above ambient temperature. This attracts moths and other pollinators as well as rodents to the flower when it blooms.
The attractive berries are extremely poisonous to many animals, including humans, but harmless to birds, which eat them and propagate the seeds. They contain oxalates of saponins which have needle-shaped crystals that irritate the skin, mouth, tongue, and throat, and result in swelling of throat, difficulty breathing, burning pain, and upset stomach. However, their acrid taste, coupled with the almost immediate tingling sensation in the mouth when consumed, means that large amounts are rarely taken and serious harm is unusual.
It has many common names including Adam and Eve, adder’s meat, adder’s root, arum, wild arum, arum lily, bobbins, cows and bulls, cuckoopint, cuckoo-plant, devils and angels, friar’s cowl, jack in the pulpit, lamb-in-a-pulpit, lords-and-ladies, naked boys, snakeshead, starch-root, and wake-robin. This is probably because it is such an unusual colour and stands out against the green background.
It is used by gardeners to underplant with Hosta as they produce foliage at the opposite times of year. As one withers the other grows leaving permanent coverage.
Although Cuckoo pint is poisonous it is used in Turkey to make soup. The soup is prepared using a complex method involving both boiling and fermentation. This creates a nutrient rich food source that would otherwise be poisonous.