The cyclamen are flowering now. They are members of the family Primulaceae, along with primroses. They are native to Europe and the Middle East and prefer shady areas in which to grow.
A friend on Twitter likened the flowers to butterflies. The flowers start off drooping and furled, then they open out and the petals stretch upwards, delicate and shining.
The name derives from the Latin, cyclamīnos, meaning circle, due to the round tuber whence the leaves and flower stems grow. They are also known as sowbread as it was thought that pigs enjoyed uprooting and eating the tubers, which resemble little loaves of bread. Modern anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that pigs don’t actually like them. They are also poisonous to cats and dogs. However, the caterpiller of the gothic moth feeds on them.
Once they have stopped flowering the stems coil up and a fruit pod forms. This contains sticky seeds that attract ants, which is how they are dispersed.
Medieval herbalists used cyclamens to make various ointments and potions for all sorts of remedies from curing snake bites to speeding up labour.