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Figwort

Scrophularia nodosa

  • Name also: Woodland Figwort, Common Figwort, Knotted Figwort
  • Family: Figwort Family – Scrophulariaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock horizontal, tuberously thick.
  • Height: 30–100 cm (12–40 in.). Stem unbranched, 4-edged (edges sometimes narrowly winged), glabrous.
  • Flower: Corolla irregular (zygomorphic), green, 7–10 mm (0.28–0.4 in.) long, fused, bilabiate. Upper lip dark, brownish red, deeply 2-lobed; lower lip 3-lobed, shorter than upper lip. Calyx-tube short, wide. Calyx regular (actinomorphic), 5-lobed. Stamens 5, one of which scale-like and vestigial, 4 with anthers, anthers yellow. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence a long, racemose cyme.
  • Leaves: Opposite, stalked. Leaf blade ovate, with linear or cordate base, sharp-tipped, serrated, glabrous, shiny on top.
  • Fruit: Tapered, approx. 5 mm (0.2 in.) long, 2-valved capsule opening till base.
  • Habitat: Broad-leaved forests, waterside forests, forest margins, hedgerows, meadows, ditch banks, waste ground, gardens.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Figwort’s root has nodular tubers which it uses to store extra food, but centuries ago people found a way to use them to treat warts, boils and swellings. In the Middle Ages figwort root was used particularly to treat scrofulosis, which led to its generic name Scrophularia. The plant was used in that way due to the influence of the Doctrine of Signatures: the swollen nodes in the plant’s rootstock were believed to show that could heal similar-looking ailments.

Figwort’s flowers are modest with regards to size and colour, which is why the plant can easily go unnoticed despite its large size. The whole plant is often characterized by its dark green, brown and red: at least in light-filled places new leaves might be almost copper-haired, and the groups of flowers that terminate the stem have an eye-catching brown upper lip. The plant is pollinated by social wasps, which is not very usual in the plant kingdom. Perhaps they are guided towards figwort by the unpleasant smell that comes from its leaves.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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