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Week fourteen: CUDBEAR (probability 12887), by David Sutton

CUDBEAR is a kind of lichen that yields a purple or reddish dyestuff, and the name comes from the forename of Dr. Cuthbert Gordon who developed a patent for the dye. One senses a human story here. Why didn't he call it cuthbert? Was CUDBEAR possibly his wife's pet name for him, because he was a 'cuddly bear'? Ah well, we shall never know...

A lichen is a composite organism formed by the symbiosis of a fungus and an alga. There are numerous species, many rather beautiful as they form splashes of colour on rocks and stonework, but few have popular names, reflecting no doubt that apart from occasional use in producing dyes they are not of particular benefit to mankind. But apart from CUDBEAR we do have ARCHIL (with variants ORCHEL, ORCHIL, ORCHELLA, ORCHILLA), that yields a reddish-violet dye sometimes known by the French name ORSEILLE, with adjective ORSELLIC. PARELLA (or PARELLE) is another name for the archil-yielding genus. Latin gives us LECANORA, which includes the CUDBEAR species, while the very common lichen USNEA, that hangs down in greyish finely-divided fronds, takes its name from Persian ushnam, moss.

Then there is CORKIR or KORKIR, that yields a red or purple dye used in dyeing tartan (the name is from the Gaelic corcur, which in turn derives from the Latin purpura, purple) and CROTAL or CROTTLE, which yields a brownish-yellow dye also used for tartan: again the word is Gaelic in origin. Less exotically named are STONERAG or STONERAW (the rag element is from Old English ragu, lichen), OAKMOSS and WARTWEED or WARTWORT, so named for its warty excrescences.

   













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