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Great Masterwort

Astrantia major

  • Name also: Astrantia, Greater Masterwort
  • Family: Carrot Family – Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 50–80 cm (20–30 in.). Stem glabrous, hollow, joints with septa.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), white–red, app. 2 mm (0.08 in.) wide, petals 5, notched, with an incurved point. Sepals 5. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Inflorescence dense, capitular umbel. Bracteoles big, petal-like, elliptic, white–reddish.
  • Leaves: Alternate, base pod-like, rosette leaves long-stalked. Blade roundish, glossy, dark green, 3–5-lobed, lobes elliptic–obovate, margin serrate–lobed.
  • Fruit: Ovoid, 6–8 mm (0.25–0.30 in.) long two-parted schizocarp with scales.
  • Habitat: Ornamental plant, sometimes an escape close to settlements.
  • Flowering time: August.

European great masterwort is not indigenous to Finland, but because it has long been grown here as an ornamental plant, it has become an established plant in the surroundings of yards and gardens in Southern Finland. The great masterwort is hardly recognizable as an umbellifer, since its umbel inflorescence is single instead of the typical double umbels. On top of this, the great masterwort’s umbel bracts, which are rather unnoticeable with most umbellifers, are imposing like petals, often reddish white. With the help of grafting, even more handsome cultivars have been produced. A cultivar is a classification unit for useful and decorative plants – the result of a process of grafting and selection. Cultivars are sometimes mixed up with species, the basic units for the classification of all living creatures. Many species, of course, include naturally divergent groups, like subspecies, variations and forms. They differ from each other in their looks, but often their geographic ranges and habitats are different as well. Grafting is really an evolution brought about, consciously managed and accelerated by humans. With the help of grafting, a plant is coaxed to change into a desired direction, and this change is up to hundreds of millions of times faster than a change that happened naturally. Traditionally selection, the cross-breeding of different strains of the same species and even the cross-breeding of different species have been accepted methods in grafting: for example, the splendid red-flowered dwarf red masterwort, a garden species, has been grafted from cross-breeding the dwarf masterwort (A. carniolica) with the great masterwort.

The natural habitats for the great masterwort include wet meadows, so the species thrives best in fairly moist ground, even though it is generally undemanding as far as the soil is concerned. It reproduces with the help of short offshoots, but the natural strains also reproduce from seeds. The great masterwort is very attractive especially to small butterflies that come to enjoy its nectar.

Other species from the same family

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