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Plant family name: Development and Distribution

Modern Worldwide distribution of Plant-like names

The modern distribution of the name differs for different spellings. For each spelling, the prevalent countries are listed below in the order of decreasing frequency. This is given as the number per million of each country's overall population (followed by the actual number in brackets). The data are taken from this source.

Plant:
England 176.37 (9,524); Wales 123.87 (384); Australia 106.12 (2,501); New Zealand 59.82 (272); Northern Ireland 59.45 (107); Ireland 57.04 (262); Scotland 54.53 (289); Canada 46.32 (1,641); Jamaica 32.75 (101); USA 21.92 (7,019); Netherlands 20.22 (341); South Africa 13.19 (712); Pakistan 12.04 (2,236); Singapore 10.93 (59); Romania 7.32 (146); France 4.46 (294); Germany 3.75 (303)
Plantt:
Canada 1.04 (37); USA 0.18 (58)
Plante:
Canada 454.54 (16,105); St Lucia 411.18 (74); USA 29.08 (9,319); France 27.67 (1,825); Netherlands 6.29 (106); Argentina 3.49 (149); Germany 3.33 (269); Australia 2.46 (58); England 1.80 (97)
Planta:
Switzerland 18.75 (153); Ecuador 14.55 (230); Phillipines 11.59 (1,160); Mexico 7.87 (942); Colombia 7.31 (349); Venezuela 5.83 (176); Peru 5.10 (157); Argentina 4.90 (209); Italy 3.69 (224); Chile 2.53 (45); Germany 1.66 (134); Spain 1.33 (62); France 1.30 (86); Brazil 1.02 (207)

The estimated world-wide population for Plante (28,322) seems to be similar to that for Plant (28,281) though, in the case of Plante, this appears to be mainly a family that arrived in Canada from France, in the seventeenth century, and then proliferated greatly throughout the opportune conditions of North America.

The spelling Plant, on the other hand, remains most frequent in its apparent homeland of England though roughly twice as many Plants have spread widely, especially throughout the once British Empire.

Possible links between the main English Plant family and the living name Plante in western France are untested. Though none in France has (as yet) been tested, the Y-DNA evidence indicates that the French-Canadian Plante family is not genetically related down intact male lines to the English Plant family; it is not as yet clear whether this discontinuity arose before or after the formation of the Plant(e) name(s) but the French name may well have arisen independently of the main English Plant family.

No one with the spelling Planta has yet been Y-DNA tested. Planta might hence represent a genetically distinct family or perhaps, unlike Plant and Plante, not be predominantly one family.

Plant and Plante in North America

Though the various spellings of Plant-like names are generally located in different countries, this is not true in North America. Both of the spellings Plant and Plante co-exist in large numbers in this New World. The following map shows the locations of living men with each of the spellings who have been Y-DNA tested. Most with the spelling Plant (or Plantt) DNA match one another (red pins) though some do not (yellow pins). The same is true for most of those with the spelling Plante (dark blue pins) though again some do not match their main family (light blue pins). So far, the two genetically-distinct main families (red and dark blue pins) have been found to correspond neatly with the two different spellings, Plant(t) and Plante. On the other hand, it is believed that some with the spelling Plante descend from a Plant ancestor, though no such Plante has yet come forward to have this supposition tested.

Plant and Plante in North America

This map was produced with the My Maps feature of Google Maps. Futher details of the DNA results are given elsewhere on this website. The spelling Plant is discussed further under USA and Plante under Canada.

Plante and similar names in France

In modern France, the spelling Plante is found in SW France (dark brown pins). Fewer with the spelling Plantie are found in the same region and the spelling Planty is found a little further to the north.

Plante and similar names in modern France

This map was produced with the My Maps feature of Google Maps. Futher details of the data are given elsewhere on this website.

Distribution of the Plant spelling in the UK

The highest number of UK Plants in a single county in 1881 was 2408 in the county of Staffordshire. This is in the NW Midlands of England.

UK Plant distribution in 1881

This map was produced using Steve Archer's Surname Atlas CD.

The following map shows the eight UK directory districts with the highest number of telephone subscribers called Plant, a hundred years later in 1981. In all, there were Plants in 100 such districts. The highest fraction was in the Stoke on Trent district, in north Staffordshire, where there were 12% of the UK Plants. Though only eight pins are shown to indicate districts on the map, these eight districts account for 32.4% of all UK Plants. Leaving aside London and mid Wales, the top six districts are centred on cities around the north west Midlands of England.

UK Plant distribution in 1881

This map was produced with the My Maps feature of Google Maps. Counts of Plants in 100 Telephone Districts are described on pages 4-6 of Issue 1 of Roots and Branches.

DNA Evidence for a main Plant Family homeland

DNA evidence that living Plants belong mostly to a single family is described mostly elsewhere on this website. Documentary evidence that the Plant name expanded particularly from a homeland around the Cheshire-Staffordshire border is outlined progressively on this webpage below.

The following map shows in particular the spread of known ancestors of Y-DNA-matching Plants (red circles). By 1700, a main Plant family evidently stretched from the north to the south of the county of Staffordshire, which is identified by the darkest brown. Though not shown on this map, this main family had already reached America (Brandford, Ct) in the seventeenth century. To the east of Staffordshire, there are matching red circles both in SE Leicestershire by 1716 and in NE Derbyshire (near Sheffield) by 1749 [the latter 1749 location is near the Bakewell Old House Museum, home of the early sixteenth century Christopher Plant].

Local distribution of matching Plant ancestors

This map is based on Figure 14 of John S Plant and Richard E Plant (Jan 2014) Getting The Most from a Surname Study: Semantics, DNA and Computer Modelling , DNA Section, Guild of On-Name Studies (third edition) (69 pages). The darker the brown of the background colour, the higher the proportion of Plants in the county in 1881, as derived from 1881 Census data.

We can accordingy consider a hypothesis that a single Plant family ramified early, perhaps even as early as medieval times. This presents a problem, in as much as it is often considered that the vast majority of the medieval peasants were tied to their local plot of land without permission to travel. There were exceptions however, such as for the so-called fighting class, including Knights, beneath the nobility. There was a Sir John Plant [see ca.1472-84 document] with shadowy hints of widespread connections, as early as the times of the fifteenth-century Wars of the Roses. Though research is ongoing, the DNA and documentary evidence so far suggest that the main Plant family could have spread as early as those tumultuous times from east Cheshire in the NW Midlands of England to Ireland, as well as southwards through Staffordshire and into Leicestershire.

Though somewhat later, the following map shows that there were parishes with Plant records near the first and last pitched battles of this intermittent War. Though there had been street fighting at St Albans in 1455, in the south of England, there are 7 Plant records for the parish of Mucklestone which is the site of the first full scale battle, at Bloor Heath in 1459 in north Staffordshire. In Leicestershire, not far from the concluding Battle of Bosworth Field (1485), there are 15 Plant records in the nearby parish of Lockington, the earliest being a 1558 burial not long after the start of parish records. The earliest Plant records for the parish of Mucklestone are two marriages in 1567.

The homeland Plants were still mostly, in the sixteenth century, in north Staffordshire and east Cheshire. However, the above 1538-1600 interactive map shows, by default, all parishes in England that have one or more Plant records, with the darker blues representing more records. By clicking on the icon in top left corner, a side menu appears. Using this to select only those parishes with over 5 Plant records leaves ones in Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire with an outlier in Linconshire. Changing the menu to only parishes with over 12 records removes Derbyshire and over 24 leaves only Cheshire and north Staffordshire. Allowing all places with more than 2 records in this time period reaches further south through the West Midlands, into Worcestershire and Warwickshire, and adds a few places near the south east coast of England.

The wide spread of parishes with just one or two Plant records, by 1538-1600, might imply that there were a lot of separate origins to the name or that early Plants had already been quite mobile. Though the computer simulations indicate that around 90% of the origins to a surname can die out in the first few generations leading into the Black Death, we have another way of assessing the likely mix of early families. According to DNA evidence, a single main Plant family has grown abnormally large. Early mobility helps to explain this, in as much as it spreads the net further across different parishes to bring in more early Plant records to a single family.

It has long been commented that Plant is a populous surname that ramified early. Our DNA evidence has indicated furthermore that living bearers of the Plant surname belong mostly to a single family. Our computer simulations indicate that the main Plant family must have grown steadily to attain its large size, perhaps overtaking other early Plant families such as one in south Lincolnshire. We can moreover add that it helps to reach an abnormally large living population, if the family comprised most of the known Plants, even by medieval times.

Reaching back to before English parish records

We have shown that reaching the population size of the main Plant family is barely to be expected, even as a one in a million statistically-unlikely event, even in the favourable growth conditions of Staffordshire[our earlier paper]. In our earlier paper, we went on to consider possible beneficial factors, such as an early start or the surname being ascribed to several men of a pre-existing male-line family. We here simplify the discussion by leaving aside the complications of emigration and subsequent growth overseas, and instead consider just the UK Plant population size by 1851. The method and two graphs below then show more directly that attaining a family size as large as the single Plant family becomes much more likely if we assume that the family starts out with several people already by early times.

Method of early population estimations

Around 60% of the DNA tested Plants match into the main Plant family but this might be partly due to a so-called Founder Effect for those who have emigrated overseas. Hence, considering only those whose ancestral lines were in England in 1851, we have 20 of whom 9 match. In other words, 45% of these match the main Plant family and, allowing for statistical uncertainties, we can be 90% confident that the main family fraction accounts for between 27% and 63% of the total number of Plants. However, of the remainder, it is uncertain how many descend from the main family by so-called non-paternity events.

Considering the 1851 Census entries for Plant men in England, aged between 17 and 50, there are 857. In other words, around 21% of the 3,081 English Plants in 1851 were reproductive age males. From the DNA data, we can estimate that 45% of these, or more widely between 27% and 63% of these, match the main Plant family. In other words, in 1851 we have around 386 reproductively active males in the main family or, with 90% confidence, between 229 and 642.

As an example, we can assume the favourable population growth rates of the county of Staffordshire, which are higher than those for England as a whole. Assuming a high population growth rate helps with reaching the required target numbers of main family Plants by 1851. Our computer simulations then indicate the number of reproductive active male Plants needed to reach with confidence each of the three main-family target C values by 1851 (i.e. 5% target C value=229, Mean=386, and 95% target=642).

The horizontal axes of the graphs below indicate the number of main-family Plant reproductive males needed to reach the required 1851 target populations with 90% confidence, starting from (a) 1401; and, (b) 1671. The three curves correspond to three different estimates of the single-family population size in 1851, within a 90% confidence interval (CI) as statistically derived from our DNA results.

(a) in 1401: for our targets, we need about 20 to 50 Plant men...

   Number of reproductively active males needed in
1401


(b) in 1671: for our targets, we need about 50 to 120 Plant men...

   Number of reproductively active males needed in
1671

Thus, we evidently need around 20 to 50 reproductively active male Plants in the main family in 1401 to attain our observed number of 1851 Plants in a single family, within 90% confidence limits; and, around 50 to 120 in 1671.

The latter date, 1671, coincides with the Hearth Tax return records though a full set of these is not as yet readily available on line. However, as a rough guide, 49 Plant hearth tax households have been found around the main Plant homeland with a further 2 in West Yorkshire and 8 more in London and Middlesex. This comparison would tend to indicate that nearly all of the Plant hearth-tax households yet found should preferably belong to a single family, in order to provide confidence for reaching the 1851 targets.

The situation for 1401 seems more problematic still. The known medieval records evidently fall quite far short of those needed in 1401, for the main single family alone. There could have been more Plants than those that we have found in the sparse medieval records so far. Ideally however, to reach the 1851 targets, it would help if we could associate with the main Plant family as many as possible of those found.

Gathering together this many early Plants

If these estimations are correct, we are then left with the question of why there were so many from a single family so early. As one possibilty, we have that there could have been a very early start to the name. Most contentiously, there was a Julius Planta in the Alps by 46AD and, for example, several from this noble family could have arrived via Normandy to England.

Chinon castle...
Chinon castle
Loudun castle...
Loudun castle

Eimeric de la Planta of Chinon and Loudun (1202) could, for example, have belonged to this Planta family and, under the feudal authority of William Longspee (ca.1176-1226), slight variations of the Plant name could have progressed from Normandy to England.

More generally, the main features of the distribution of early Plant records can be explained by a Longspee-Audley feudal hypothesis. This could have brought, from Anjou and Normandy in France, an early culture for the Plant surname, if not the main Plant family itself. This hypothesis fits well with the known distribution of the name from around the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. Subsequent migration could then have extended the distribution of the Plant name in England by around 1538-1600.

Alternatively, some such Englishman as a horseman, for example, could have left a wide scatter of the Plant family's seed. That would then allow us to bring together more of the known early records for Plant and ascribe a large fraction of them to a single main Plant family. Moreover, if such a horseman was something of a womaniser, this in itself could have produced a robust start to a strong and steady growth of this single male-line Plant family.

Curli seal of arms...
Curli seal of arms
Plant coat of arms...
Plant coat of arms

Aswell as the name, we can consider a possible culture for the Plants' heraldry. Amongst a smatter of a few Plant records by 1538-1600, who had reached southwards from the name's most populous homeland into Warwickshire, there is for example a Plant record at Barford which is just 3 miles south of Budbooke. According to Dugdale [William Dugdale, 1656, Antiquaries of Warwickshire], the Curli family of Budbrooke had, as their seal of arms, a label with four points in place of a bend sinister. The main element of the Plant coat of arms is, rather similarly, a very rare label in bend. This suggests perhaps some shared cultural influence. However, other than Curli origins in Lower Normandy, which can be compared with the placename le Plantis and early Plant names there, there is nothing to suggest any particular connection between these two surnames, Curli and Plant, from as early as the thirteenth century.

As an extreme assumption, we can suppose that the main Plant family was largely the only Plant family to begin with. The fraction of male-line mismatches could then have grown steadily as a result of false paternity events. This then requires quite considerable mobility for the early Plant family however to link their known medieval records together.

There are a number of indications of some mobility in early Plant records. For example in 1301 and 1312 and 1315, there is mention of John Plonte who was a freeman of Canterbury. A freeman was not tied to local land by his Lord. In 1352, Ralph de Stafford was involved in a dispute that James Plant and others had carried off his goods from Wells and Wareham in Norfolk. For this, we can consider for example the mobility of a sumpter, meaning a pack-horse man. In 1381, John le Sumpter and Thomas Plonte are mentioned in connection with a disputed murder at Leek. Out of identified men in the Macclesfield Court Rolls for 1349-96, fifty-six (approx 6%) had working horses and Ranulph Plont of Rainow was one of them. Working horses could be used as pack animals and Ranulph also had draught animals such as oxen which could be used four or eight to a cart.[A.M.Tonkinson, Macclesfield in the Later Fourteenth Century (Manchester, 1991) Appendix Two and p.26] Some such Plant family sumpter, or geneat, could have left a number of quite widely-spread progeny. This assumption could serve to bring in several early Plant records to provide the aforementioned required robust start to the main Plant family's abnormally large size.

As a particular striking illustration of the medieval context, the hypothetical by-name spelling Plantageneat (sic) could have meant a plant horseman, with plant perhaps alluding to establishing order or planting offspring, perhaps by philandering for example. A geneat was a peasant without a heavy commitment to sevices of labour, whose obligations to his lord often involved riding, carrying messages, escorting his lord, helping with the hunt and general carriage work [Christopher Dyer, 2002, Making a living in the Middle Ages: The people of Britain 850 to 1520, p.39]. For example in 1266, Galfrido Plauntegenet (sic) amongst others was required to transport a garderobe. As a geneat, he could have been entirely unrelated to the royal so-called Plantagenet family, who evidently did not use the Plantagenet name until the mid fifteenth century.

Early records for the Plant name in England

Leaving aside uncertainties about Plant family relationships, there are thirteenth- and fourteenth-century records for the name that are spread widely throughout England and elsewhere. If we were to discount any substantial early mobility, it would then appear that few of these early instances went on to produce many, if any, living male-line descendants. The likely exceptions are items 1, 5 and 11 in the following map.

The following map is taken from Plant JS, Plant RE. (2015, Jan 15). English surnames: Plural Origins and Emigration. Surname DNA Journal. http://dx.doi.org/10.14487/sdna.001652 Retrieved June 13, 2015 from http://www.surnamedna.com.

Plant Medieval Locations

Fig. 6: Some medieval records for Plant-like names
(1) 1139-1798 Seat of the noble Planta family in the Upper Engadine. (2) 1202 Lands at Chinon and Loudun of Emeric de la Planta alias de Plantí. (3) 1262 First known evidence of the name in England; spelled Plaunte. (4) 1273 Three Rouen merchants called de la Plaunt and Plaunt. (5) 1279 At Burgh-le-Marsh near Bolingbroke, the name Plante is indicated to have been hereditary for 3 generations. (6) 1282 The name form de Plantes in Huntingdonshire. (7) 1301 First evidence of the Plant name local to the subsequent main homeland of the surname. (8) ca.1280-ca.1360 Records of Plonte name at Bath, explicitly hereditary by 1328. (9) 1350 London priest Henry Plante of Risole: (9a) is Risoul; (9b) is London. (10) 1352 James Plant carried away goods from recently lost Warren lands in Norfolk. (11) 1360 onwards - several records of Plonte or Plont in the subsequent main Plant homeland. (12) 1379 A gardener called Plant. See
http://www.plant-fhg.org.uk/origins.html#13c for a fuller list and details.

Though the Plant surname went on to survive mostly around Leek, near the Cheshire-Staffordshire border (item 11 in above map), there is also explicit evidence that the surname was hereditary (rather than being just a single-generation by-name) near Bolingbroke in south Lincolnshire by 1279 (item 5).

There are also early records around Bath in Somerset (item 8) by 1275 and it is explicit that these were hereditary by 1329. It is unclear whether the name of the manor of La Plantland, here, interacted with the Plonte surname. The exact location of this manor is not known though it is presumably near other places listed with it in a 1310 record (yellow diamonds in the map below) which are in south Wales just across the Bristol Channel from occurrences of Plonte.

La Planteland and Plonte near Bath

It could be only accidental that a feudal Longspee-Audley connection appears to link item 8 to items 5 and 11 on the preceding map and also to other early occurrences of the Plant surname elsewhere. We can conjecture that these two intermarrying powerful families, Longspee and Audley, were instrumental in transmitting an idea for the Plant name, or perhaps even inducing a transfer of people called Plant between separate localities. Considering this early feudal effect as the only influence driving the name's distribution could well be over-simplistic. As with most evidence for this early, supporting documentary evidence of a connection between geographically distant Plant records is slight. It is at least uncertain whether all occurrences of the same name belonged to a single family. Though the DNA evidence and computer simulations allow that the large number of living Plants could be more than one family, the number of different families could have been few and a dominant single family from early times helps towards explaining why there is now an abnormally large main Plant family.

It may be noted for item 10, for example, that this involves a 1352 complaint against 31 people, with 26 different second names, for the removal of goods from ex-Warenne land in north Norfolk, following the demise of the last Warren earl. Seven of these surnames (or by-names) are found shortly after at item 11 in available Court Rolls for Macclesfield Hundred in east Cheshire: Plont, Halle, Kent, Knyght, Lovell, Nichol, and Batiller (or Bataille) [see 1352 document mentioning James Plant]. This suggests a connection between these places but leaves some degree of uncertainty about why.

Distribution developments in the main Plant homeland

The main Plant family evidently originated (or perhaps arrived) at item 11 on the above map, which is at the northernmost boundary of Staffordshire with Cheshire.

In east Cheshire, in the Macclesfield court rolls (1349-1391), there is for example a 1373 mention of Thomas Plont at the Black Prince's Midgley vaccary, on the Cheshire-Staffordshire border. This location, just across from Lud's Church, has been associated by Professor R. W. V. Elliott with the contemporary poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

In the 1950s, Professor Elliot suggested, for example, that the country surrounding Dieulacres Abbey's grange at Swythamley was the scene of the hunting episodes and that the climax of the poem took place at Lud's Church to the north-east of Swythamley. He also suggested that the beheading of John de Warton at Leek in 1380 may have inspired part of the poem. A Thomas Plont, possiby the same Thomas Plont as at the Midgely vaccary, was involved with this beheading [see British History Online and 1381 document].
Black Prince's vaccary

At those times, just a few milles to the north, nearer the de Warenne seat at Poynton and near another apparent site of the Black Prince's three vaccaries, the Macclesfield Court Rolls mention three generations of moderately wealthy Plants, free tenants at Rainow: Ranulph Plont, John Plont snr, and John Plont jnr. A John Plant junior appears also in a 1445 list of Knights, Gentlemen and Freelhoders of Macclesfield Hundred [see also ca.1472-84 document for Sir John Plant].

For the following map, there is no corresponding 1532-3 Plant family data outside of Staffordshire. So those Plants to the north of the county border, in the Macclesfield Hundred of Cheshire for example, are not shown. Eighteen Plant families are listed in Staffordshire in 1532-3 and, judging by the numbers of Plant parish records for 1538-1600, we can expect this to account for just 26% of the English Plants with the rest equally divided between just Cheshire and all other counties of England - this suggests a total of around 50 Plant families in all. For just Staffordshire, the map shows that some Plants had moved southwards from the Cheshire-Staffordshire border by 1532-3, with several in the vicinity of Stone (between Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford). Notwithstandig some uncertainty about the location of this Darlaston, one Plant family was evidently far to the south of Staffordshire, near Birmingham at Darlaston (which was in the county of Staffordshire at that time).

Plant families in Staffordshire 1532-3 Map

Key to Details of Families

The Darlaston Plant family can also be associated with a 1471 document mentioning a husbandman Thomas Plant of Darlaston in league with a gentleman of the Fitton family of Gawsworth, which is south of Macclesfield in Cheshire in the main Plant homeland (see also 1445 document). There is also a later document for a Plant with property at Darlaston in 1614.

The clustering of Plant Hearth Tax records (ca.1670) around the main Plant homeland of east Cheshire and north Staffordshire is shown in the following map.

Plant Hearth Tax cluster in main homeland
This map is taken from Figure 2 of: John S. Plant and Richard E. Plant (April 2012) The Plant Controversy, Journal of One-Name Studies, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp. 8-9. More detail about some of the Hearth Tax data is given on pages 17-20 of this article published in Issue 30 of Roots and Branches.

The largest green circles above represent the largest numbers of Plant Hearth Tax records and these are in Totmonslow Hundred (including Leek parish) of north Staffordshire and, across the border to the north, in Macclesfield Hundred of east Cheshire. Though not every county has been considered, there are also a few to the east of Staffordshire in Derbyshire and to the west into Shropshire, as well as further south in Staffordshire. The placements in Staffordshire at Pyrehill, Cuttlestone and Offlow are not precise as these are only central locations in these large Hundreds of Staffordshire.

Though the isolated occurence in Shropshire, at Bradford, curiously coincides with the Audley family's Red Castle, in keeping with the many successes of the Longspee-Audley hypothesis, this particular location has not as yet been found as showing up in early Plant records.

As before, the brown shading in the above map represents the proportion of Plants in each county by 1881. More detail of the 1881 distribution is shown in the following maps which are for smaller districts defined by legislation for Poor Law Unions. At this time, the highest number of Plants occurs for the District of Stoke on Trent (immediately to the west of the Cheadle District labelled below) but, as a fraction of the overall population, the Plants skirt around slightly to the east of Stoke on Trent and reach further south west into the Newport District.

Plant distribution around 1881 main concentration

Further to the south in these maps, Dudley lies between Wolverhampton and Birmingham and there is a slight shift to Stourbridge, immediately to the south of Dudley when the proportion of Plants, rather than the actual numbers, is considered.

Cultural contexts for the main Plant family's origins

Models for early origins to the English Plant surname can be considered in terms of two broad possible contexts:

One simple interpretation of the Plant surname is that an early name form de la Planta (item 2) might have meant from la Planta region of the Alps (item 1) or it might have related to some other suitably-named place. However, though the DNA sub-clades suggest continental origins for the ancestral male line of main Plant family, this could have been in millennia before this family's surname first formed. Restricting ourselves to more certain migrants around the times of surname formation, the name could have been transmitted through the feudal lords of the Plant peasants. In the twelfth- to fourteenth-century Longspé-Audley hypothesis, the name colud have begun with the French meaning of planté and the administrators of these feudal lords could have applied this `planted place' meaning to a family of local peasants living near one.

The surname origins of the main Plant family can be set in the fourteenth-century (if not earlier) context of two intermingling cultures around the main Plant homeland: one with emphasis on primogeniture, with associated rules about the legitimacy of the male heir; and, the other perhaps more akin to the freer medieval marital arrangements of the Welsh (cf. item 7 near 11). In the Welsh cuture, polygyny was permissible and inheritance could pass to all recognised sons including `illegitimate' ones. One might accordingly consider the Welsh meaning `children' of plant, which has a Celtic pronunciation cland, in keeping with possible ideas for a large male-line family or `clan'. An alternative possibility is that Plant could have meant from the `planting enclosure', perhaps relating to the contemporary vaccary of the Black Prince in east Cheshire (item 11) or perhaps it related to some earlier `planted place' in Leek parish near the Roaches.

The prominent Rocks dominating much of Leek parish - the Roaches - often have their own distinct micro-climate, sometimes bleak in snow and low cloud in the winter and sometimes peeping through rain clouds to the clear blue sky above. The recently (2016) discovered Iron-Age Leekfrith gold torcs, found planted in a hillside, are being considered to have been buried simply to hide them or perhaps as a votive offering in this rather `mystical' place.

An interplay of two intermingling cultures, in the main fourteenth-century Plant homeland, is evident in the contemporary literature...

French chivalry

This context of the main Plant homeland is exemplified, in a poetic frame of mind, by French courtly chivalry invading more local customs. For example, the parish of Leek in the main homeland is said to derive its name from the Welsh (llech) for `slab', `stone', or `rock' (sometimes confused with Old Scandinavian Loekr meaning brook) though its distinctive rocks are now called The Roaches (French), presumably because of the invading French culture.

In the early fourteenth-century illustration alongside, a courtly Knight delivers a lady from a wild-man (French tradition).

Celtic tradition is personified by the Green Knight of the contemporary so-called Pearl poet (see, for example, a 2001 article from Series 1 of the Plant Journal) who is thought to have lived in the main Plant homeland which was astride the border between Leek in north Staffordshire and east Cheshire in the north-west midlands of England. In the late fourteenth-century epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight challenges Gawain to a beheading contest and arranges for Gawain's temptation (Celtic traditions) to test his chivalry (French tradition).

In the late fourteenth-century illustration alongside, Sir Bertilak's wife tries to tempt Sir Gawain.

Temptation of Gawain

Previous assessments of the name distribution in England

The presentations of these initial assessments are gradually being upgraded with the advent of more easily accessed records on the web along with improved mapping software.

Initial assesments of IGI records assembled on microfiche gave raise to a distribution map of pre-1700 Plants (as recorded in the 1984 IGI) with a primary cluster in Cheshire and Staffordshire, as well as a secondary cluster in Lincolnshire. The IGI data, for 50 year intervals between 1600 and 1850, also suggested an early migration from Cheshire further south into Staffordshire, as presented as:-

It was evident from these records that, by around the times of the Industrial Revolution, the secondary Plant cluster in Lincolnshire had diminished. For the primary cluster, it appeared that there was a migration from the rural areas of east Cheshire and north Staffordshire, to such nearby industrial centres as Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton (both in Staffordshire), as well as to Manchester (Lancashire), Birmingham, Sheffield (south Yorkshire), and London.

Studies of the more recent distribution of the name in the UK showed it to be smeared out around Staffordshire, with some migration to other places besides:-

Some facets of the Plant name

Plant Home PagePlant Family History Group Homepage