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Sanicula europaea

  • Name also: Wood Sanicle
  • Family: Carrot Family – Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short, thick, slightly creeping.
  • Height: 20–50 cm (8–20 in.). Stem usually unbranched, edged, glabrous, hollow, joints with septa, base brown scales.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), reddish–white, 2–3 mm (0.08–0.12 in.) wide; petals 5, tip recurved. Sepals 5. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Inflorescence a compound umbel, secondary umbels compounded. Primary and secondary umbels with bracts.
  • Leaves: Alternate, base sheath-like, basal leaves long-stemmed, overwintering, stem leaves usually 1, stalkless. Blade roundish–triangular, (3–)5-lobed, lobes with narrow bases and toothed margins, sometimes further lobed.
  • Fruit: Ovoid, 2-parted, hook-haired, approx. 5 mm (0.2 in.) long schizocarp.
  • Habitat: Broad-leaved forests, forest margins, coppices. Calciphile.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

The northern limit of sanicle’s habitat extends at least as far as the south-west corner of Finland, and on the Åland Islands it has lent its name to the type of broad-leaved forest that it grows in. Sanicle grows among different kinds of vegetation and it indicates most of all that the vegetation has an exceptionally southern character by Finnish standards.

Sanicle is so rare in Finland that it has probably never played a significant role in folk medicine, but it has been among the elite of medicinal herbs and has even been cultivated as such. The crushed leaves were placed directly on the wound or used as a poultice, and juice pressed from the plant was believed to help broken bones set. It was used internally for stomach or intestinal ulcers and boiled up to make a gargle. It has been shown to have antibacterial properties and also contains compounds that have an astringent effect on the mucous membrane and promote the healing of wounds.

Sanicle often grows under groups of trees and bushes on coppices, usually in areas that were formed as grazing land or meadows. The fruit is two-parted, which is typical for the family, but its hooked hairs are a unique feature. It uses them to catch on to animal fur and travel to new habitats.

Other species from the same family

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