Thursday, July 05, 2012

Hedge woundwort

Standing idly in the garden in a rare sunny moment, I noticed a bank of flowering hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) was attracting many hive and bumble bees to its flowers.

20120705 Stachys sylvatica SV

The plant is common and widespread in our area and elsewhere in Britain and has a solid reputation as a bee plant.

It also has, or had, medicinal virtues.  Nicholas Culpeper, the renowned 17th C herbalist wrote that this plant "stamped with vinegar and applied in manner of a pultis, taketh away wens and hard swellings, and inflammation of the kernels under the eares and jawes."

Thomas Green (1832) in The Universal Herbal says "Toads are thought to be fond of living under its shade" which, coupled with its attraction to bees and its curative properties, gives me a good excuse not to cut the plant down.  Even more so as the Ecological Flora of the British Isles lists 56 insect species associated with the plant, including 5 that are monophagous as well as (snap) 56 fungi, mostly rusts, moulds and the like.

If my arithmetic is right that is 112 species but this does not include visitors to the flowers.  In contrast, Anne Pratt in her book Wild Flowers (1860) writes "no animal is known to eat it, save the snail" but I take it that (apart from molluscs) she was referring to mammals.

20120705 Stachys sylvatica SV (4)

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