- Modern Worlwide distribution of Plant-like names
- Plant and Plante in North America
- Plante and similar names in France
- Distribution of the Plant spelling in the UK
- DNA evidence for a main Plant Family homeland
- Reaching back to before English parish records
- Early records for the Plant name around England
- Main Plant homeland developments
- Cultural contexts for the main Plant family's origins
- Old assessments of the name distribution in England
- Some summary facets of the Plant name (including 1881 UK Census, USA and Canada)or go to top menu or exit Name Distribution page to Plant site map
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.
- England 176.37 (12,604); Wales 123.87 (376); Australia 106.12 (3,259); New Zealand 59.82 (272); Northern Ireland 59.45 (107); Ireland 57.04 (262); Scotland 54.53 (289); Canada 46.32 (1,776); Jamaica 32.75 (101); USA 21.92 (7,709); 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)
- Canada 1.04 (37); USA 0.18 (58)
- 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)
- Switzerland 18.75 (153); Ecuador 14.55 (230); Philippines 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 (31,054) is similar to that for Plant (28,504) 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 slightly more 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, it might not be predominantly just one family.
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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.
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.
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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.
This map was produced with the My Maps feature of Google Maps. Futher details of the data are given elsewhere on this website.
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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.
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.
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; summary of counts for the top eight regions here.
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DNA and Documentary evidence for a main Plant Family homeland
DNA evidence that living Plants belong mostly to a single family can be combined with various sources of documentary evidence. Taken together, these suggest that the Plant name expanded, in particular, from a main homeland around the Cheshire-Staffordshire border, as outlined in this section below.
The following map shows in particular the spread of known ancestors of Y-DNA-tested Plants. By around 1700, a main Plant family (red circles) had 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 location of NE Derbyshire is near the Bakewell Old House Museum, home of the early sixteenth century Christopher Plant, though he might have arrived by a separate migration from the one that brought main-family Plants here by 1749].
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. Certainly by the sixteenth century, the locations of Plant wills were quite widely distributed as shown below.
The sizes of the green circles in the following maps indicate the number of Plant wills in the sixteenth century at each location with the date indicating the first known instance of a Plant will there. The darkness of the brown background indicates the fraction of the population that are Plants in each county in 1881. The expanded map portion to the left shows the main Plant homeland of Staffordshire in more detail.
Graphic produced using ArcGIS by Prof Richard E Plant.
The above map shows the locations of Plants who were settled enough, in the sixteenth century, to make a will at that place. These locations correspond well with the lands of the Audley lords around 1300, with some extension into the lands of some related lords – this is described more fully here – we can accordingly surmise that these lords were the feudal lords over the Plants.
Much migration by the sixteenth century presents something of 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. This raises the question of whether the Plants had migrated around the estates of their Audley feudal lords, for example, or whether the administrators of the Audley estates had coined the Plant surname for unrelated peasants in different estates.
There were some exceptions to the norm of immobile peasants, such as for servants of the gentry lords and, more rarely, 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 and north Staffordshire in the NW Midlands of England to Ireland, as well as southwards, not least through Audley connected estates in Staffordshire and into Leicestershire for example.
A rather similar (but rather more extensive) distribution of Plants is indicated by the following map. This shows that there were many parishes with at least an occasional sixteenth-century Plant record, albeit that this map includes places beyond just those where sixteenth-century Plants were established enough to make a will.This map includes, for example, records near the first and last pitched battles of the intermittent so-called War of the Roses. Though there had been street fighting at St Albans in 1455, the site of the first full-scale battle was in north Staffordshire in 1459 at Bloor Heath and there are 7 Plant records in the sixteenth century for the nearby parish of Mucklestone. In Leicestershire, not far from the concluding Roses battle of Bosworth Field (1485), there are 15 Plant records in the sixteenth century 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, near Bloor Heath, are two marriages in 1567.
Some further details concerning these sixteenth-century records are given here.
In the sixteenth century, particularly many Plants (darker blue) were still in north Staffordshire and east Cheshire.
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 (though despite several wills in Leek parish in north Staffordshire, the parish records for around Leek are notoriously missing). Changing the menu to only parishes with over 12 records removes Derbyshire and for over 24 leaves only Cheshire and north Staffordshire remain. 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 at least one genetic Plant family had already been mobile enough by these times. If there were much early mobility of the Plants, that would help to explain the large size of the main Plant family, in as much as it would spread the net further across different parishes, to bring in more early Plant records to accumulate into a robust early start for the main Plant family.
Our 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. This leaves room in the total population for a few larger single families. According to DNA evidence, a single main Plant family has grown abnormally large and considerations that would help to explain this large growth are appropriate for this main Plant 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 largely to a single genetic 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. Documentation for a 1453 Plant drover and a knight Sir John Plant in Ireland ca.1472-84 are consistent with this much migration by the times of sixteenth-century wills and parish records.
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Reaching back to before English parish records
We have shown that the growth of a single family to the population size of the main Plant family is barely to be expected, even as a one in a million statistically-unlikely event. This remains true even in the favourable growth conditions of Staffordshire. In an earlier paper [here], we went on to consider possible beneficial factors, such as an early start to the main Plant family or the surname having been ascribed subsequently to several men of a pre-existing male-line family. In another article [here], we showed that, after adopting a statistical lower limit for the main Plant family population as derived from our living Y-DNA results, that there needed to be around 20 to 50 reproductively-active male Plants in the main family in 1401 for a 90% confidence interval; and, around 50 to 120 in 1671. We considered [here] a different analytic approach, using a negative-binomial statistical distribution instead of Poison simulations, and arrived at much the same result.
The later date, 1671, in these statistical results 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 our main-family population targets.
The situation for 1401 (i.e. 20 to 50 reproductive males needed) is more problematic still. The known medieval records evidently fall quite far short of those needed in 1401, for the main single family. There could have been more Plants than we know about [e.g. the ca.1380 Poll tax records are missing for the main Plant homeland]. Ideally however, to reach our main Plant family targets, it would help if we could gather together as many as possible of those Plants found with more.
If these estimations are correct, we are then left with the question of why there are so many from a single family, as evidently needed, by 1401 and then by 1671. 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 it has been claimed [G.R.de Beer (1952) Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, p.8] that the modern Planta family, which is still found around its noble seat of Engadine in the Swiss Alps, descends from him. That said, it is generally considered to be extremely questionable that a genetic link could be intact throughout the millennium or more from 46AD to 1139AD.
In our earlier article [here], we showed that there was a 5% chance of reaching the lower bound of our 1401 target population if the main Plant family began with a single man by around 1221.
There was an Eimeric de la Planta (alias de Plant') near the Angevin homeland of the so-called Plantagenets. In 1202 he was dispossed of land at Chinon and Loudun (1202). It is conceivable that he could, for example, have belonged to the aforesaid Planta family Alternatively, sticking to the spelling Plant(e), there was a Durand Plante in Normandy in 1180. Either way, under the authority of some feudal lord such as William Longspee (ca.1176-1226), slight variations of the Plant name could have progressed from Normandy into England and to the main Plant homeland of north Staffordshire.
Chinon castle and Loudun castle in Greater Anjou
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, though it seems less likely that the main Plant family itself travelled with them. These feudal lords could have ascribed the Plant name to their local peasants, such as in the main Plant homeland, since William Longspée became sheriff of this homeland in 1224 and his line had married into the local Audley family by 1244. This hypothesis then fits well with the known distribution of the Plant name from around the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. Subsequent migration could then have extended the distribution of the Plant surname in England by around 1538-1600, not least around the Audleys' estates in Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire.
Alternatively, a rather later start with abnormally many children in the earliest generations could have provided a robust initial boost to the main-family population leading on from a strong basis to eventually a large main Plant family. For this, we can imagine such a moderately high status peasant as a horseman, who could have left a wide scatter of the main Plant family's seed. That would then allow us to bring together more of the known early records for the Plant name and ascribe a large fraction of them to a single main genetic Plant family.
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 of north Staffordshire 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 name Rad de Planteiz near the placename le Plantis and other Plant like names in Normandy, there is nothing to suggest any particular connection between these two surnames, Curli and Plant, from as early as the thirteenth century. The earliest known evidence is a 1453 document for a Plant drover from the main Plant homeland being sued near Tur Langton in SE Leicestershire and, subsequently, a 1512 Plant document linking this same region around Tur Langton to Merston Culi in the Curli's region of influence in Warwickshire.
Curli seal of arms and Plant coat of arms
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 concerning 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 with various names 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. A geneat was a peasant without a heavy commitment to sevices of labour, but 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]. Some such assumption of a moderately lowly but mobile peasant, such as a drover, could serve to link together several early Plant records to provide the aforementioned required robust early start upon which to build the main Plant family's abnormally large size.
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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. Some possible exceptions of distant links and survivals might perhaps involve items 1, 5 and 11 in the following map but we have found no Y-DNA family connections over such large distances.
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.
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 Plant'. (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 Plant 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.
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 indeed also connects to other early occurrences of the Plant surname elsewhere. We can conjecture that the two intermarrying powerful families, the Longspee and Audley families, were instrumental in transmitting an idea for the Plant name, or perhaps even inducing a transfer of people called Plant between their various localities. Considering this early feudal effect as the only influence driving the name's distribution could be over-simplistic though it appears to explain surprisingly much. As with most evidence for this early however, there is a general absence of explicit documentary evidence of familial connections at or between most of the geographically distant Plant locations. It is at the very least uncertain whether all occurrences of the Plant name belonged to a single genetic family. Though the DNA evidence and computer simulations allow that the large number of living Plants could have started out as more than one family, the notion that there were rather few from early times, with one of them becoming numerically dominant, would help towards explaining why there is now an abnormally large main Plant family.It may be noted for item 10 in the above map, 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 possible connection between these places but leaves some degree of uncertainty about why.
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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].
Suitable records to the north of this vacary, in east Cheshire, begin better than incomplete records to the south though at a similar date. Searches of the largely untranscribed Macclesfield Court Rolls reveal for example at least seven east Cheshire Plants in 35 entries in the 1370s.
Around 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, these 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 though his connection to this 'homeland' region is uncertain].
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 with ten in the north-eastern parish of Leek (their very rough locations are marked in the map below as A to K excluding F).
For just Staffordshire, the 1532-33 map below 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). The map also indicates that one Plant family was evidently far to the south of Staffordshire at Darlaston, nearer Birmingham, and there is a scatter of just a few other early occasional records near here. However, it should be added that there is another Darlaston further north near Stone.
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.
Judging by the numbers of Plant parish records for 1538-1600, we can expect the eighteen 1532-33 Staffordshire families to account for just 26% of the English Plants with the rest equally divided between just Cheshire and all other counties of England. This could suggest a total of around 50 Plant families in the whole of England at that time. However, it seems that many Plants are missing from the early parish records for Leek such that the eighteen 1532-33 families in Staffordshire in fact might amount to a higher fraction than the 26% of the total which is based on (incomplete) parish records.
The distribution of the ten 1532-33 Plant families in the NE-Staffs parish of Leek includes five in Leekfrith which are numbered 1 to 5 at rather arbitrary locations in the frith in the map below.
Key to Details of Families
Here, besides the ten families, A denotes the Midgley vaccary; D denotes Dieulacres Abbey founded at the bottom of the frith in 1214; H denotes the nearby Audley manor of Horton with Gratton; and, W denotes Heaton manor of which William Plant owned a half share during 1614-31.
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.
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, with further information about the source data outlined here.
As before, the brown shading in the above map represents the proportion of Plants in each county by 1881.
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.
The isolated occurence in Shropshire, marked Bradford, is more precisely in fact at Bearstone (marked L in the full 1532-33 Staffordshire map above). This is on the border between Staffordshire and the large Shropshire Hundred of North Bradford. Bearstone was around 5 miles SW of the Audleys' Heighley castle. A further 5 miles SW there was a 1595 Plant will at Drayton in Hales and yet a further 9 miles SW there was the Audleys' castle called Redcastle.
Newport in Shropshire is labelled on the following map as having a high frequecy of the Plant name in its moderate population in 1881. The manor of Edgmond with the borough of Newport had been granted to Henry de Audley in 1227. [Within around 5 miles of this Newport, there was a 1510 Plant document at Gnosall and intermittent Plant wills at Edgmond (1568), Sheriff Hales (1628 and 1773), Forton (1778 and 1790), and Newport (1815).]
Some detail of the 1881 distribution of the Plant name is shown in the following maps which are for some relatively small 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 of Shropshire.
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.
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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:
- local derivation near the main Plant homeland (item 11 in above map), with an interplay of French and Celtic (cf. Welsh) culture, with the latter likely over-written in Saxon/Viking times; and,
- cultural influence with migration from afar: for example, there is early evidence for the Planta name in the Alps (item 1) which can be associated with a persisting Romano-Celtic culture.
One simple interpretation of the Plant surname is that an early name form de la Planta in 1202 (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 such as le Plantis or Planty in France. It was slightly preceded however by the name Plante in Normandy in 1180. Though the DNA sub-clades suggest continental origins for the ancestral male line of main Plant family, with its sub-clade L617-FGC14591 settling especially in Cornwall and along the English Channel such as in Normandy, 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 could 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 when viewed from high ground 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.
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 has been said to derive its name from the Welsh (llech) for `slab', `stone', or `rock', though it the name is more often now claimed to have originated from the Old Scandinavian (loekr) meaning brook or spring (a leak of holy water from the earth). The distinctive rocks in Leek parish are now called The Roaches (French), evidently from the invading Norman culture by 1070, with particular features called cloud (e.g. Hen Cloud), as presumed to be from the earlier Anglo-Saxon word 'clud' for a rock.
In the early fourteenth-century illustration above, a courtly Knight delivers a lady from a wild-man (French tradition).
On the other hand, 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 above, Sir Bertilak's wife tries to tempt Sir Gawain.
A likely interplay of Celtic and French has also been noted in connection with Dieulacres Abbey near Leek town. The traditional explanation is that the name comes from the French 'may God increase it' ascribed at the time of the Abbey's refoundation from Poulton to Leek in 1214 by Ranulph 'de Blundeville', earl of Chester whose French wife is claimed to have made this remark. However, the name was perhaps a play on an earlier original name of the land which may have been similar to the Celtic tulach (hill) with roed, rud, rus (forest) - hence tulach rus meaning 'hill wood' being misinterpreted as the similar sounding Dieu l'encrés meaning 'God prosper it' - the moor above the abbey is still called Hillswood. [Tim Cockin, The Staffordshire Encyclopaedia, (Malthouse Press, 2nd Ed, 2006), p 157]
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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, though the comparative lack of early records for NE Staffordhire leaves a possibility open that they were mainly there from the outset. This is presented as:-
- changing numbers in key UK counties between 1601 and 1850
- maps of the changing Plant distribution from 1601 to 1881.
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:-
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Some facets of the Plant name
- The DNA evidence indicates that the English Plant name belongs mostly to an abnormally large single family, suggesting that the name is largely a single-ancestor surname (with some mismatching descent through female links).
- The development of a much improved feudal hypothesis for the English context of early Plant records and some ongoing DNA investigation.
- Some early Plant documents.
- 1881 distribution of Plant name in England.
- Modern distribution of Plant-like names in France.
- Early settlers in the USA for the names Plant, Plantz, and Plantt.
- Early settlers in Canada called Plante and DuPlante.
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