Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Cushie-cow

Posted on by royvickery |

Ridderzuring_bloeiwijze_Rumex_obtusifoliusJohn Smith writes: In the North Country cushie-cow is a call to cows and also a name for the seeds of the [broad-leaved] dock, Rumex obtusifolius; I am wondering if children used the expression while stripping the seeds from the stalk, as if milking a cow.

Please send any comments on this, or other ‘milk the cow’ children’s pastimes to


1.  P-LA contains the following note received from Dorking, Surrey, in November 2009, and probably referring to greater plantain (Plantago major):  ‘Some games we indulged in as children … Milking the cow – pulling the leaf from the stalk of the plantain to reveal the veins’ [RV].

2.  Donald Watts in Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore, 2007: 128, writes: ‘Hebridean children used to call the plants [early purple orchid, Orchis mascula] dappled cows.  When found before the flower head had formed, the children would dig around the plant until the tuber was exposed.  They would then milk the dappled cow by compressing the tuber, squeezing the juice out.  Apparently they had no use for the juice, and did not taste it’ [RV].

Updated 27 August 2014. Image: Wiki Commons

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