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Valeriana sambucifolia

  • Name also: Common Valerian (see V. officinalis), All-heal
  • Family: Honeysuckle Family – Caprifoliaceae
    (formerly Valerian Family – Valerianaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. With subterraneous and surface runners.
  • Height: 40–170 cm (16–68 in.). Stem branching, bristly, grooved, glabrous or lower part hairy, hollow, greenish–brownish, sometimes reddish.
  • Flower: Corolla slightly zygomorphic, pale purple–white, 4–8 mm (0.16–0.32 in.) long, fused, funnel-shaped, base slightly distended, 5-lobed. Calyx small, collar-like. Stamens 3. Gynoecium composed of 3 fused carpels. Inflorescence an umbellate compound cyme.
  • Leaves: Opposite, stalked. Blade pinnate, with 3–8 pairs and terminal leaflet. Leaflets toothed, strong-veined, terminal leaflet usually broader than lateral leaflets.
  • Fruit: Egg-shaped, glabrous, downy, 2.8–3.8 mm (0.112–0.152 in.) long achene.
  • Habitat: Shore meadows and hedgerows, stream banks, rich mixed swamps, broad-leaved forests, coppices, field and road ditches, edges of arable land (ssp. sambucifolia), sea-shore meadows and rocky outcrops (ssp. salina).
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Valeriana sambucifolia blooms in high summer on young meadows, and is one of the more impressive plants that grows on roadsides and on ditch banks. The runners that grow at the base of the plant spread efficiently making large stands and its broad, umbellate inflorescence terminates its metre-long stem and adds a light purple hue to the landscape. Valeriana sambucifolia flowers abundantly and is a good nectar plant for butterflies, bees and flower flies. It is native to coasts, stream-side hedgerows and shore-side broad-leaved forests, but has been quick to spread to habitats that have been created by people. Valeriana sambucifolia grows in all of Finland, but is most common in coastal regions.

Valeriana sambucifolia is divided into two or sometimes three subspecies which are sometimes regarded as being species in their own right. Inland, ssp. sambucifolia has a green or brownish stem and 3–6 leaf pairs. Ssp. salina grows by the Baltic Sea and is smaller and sturdy with a dark purple stem and 6–8 pairs of usually toothless leaflets. The third subspecies, ssp. procurrens, is the largest and its leaves have a hairy underside.

Flowering genus Valeriana plants can be mistaken for members of the Apiaceae family because at first glance they look very similar to members of the Carrot family. On closer inspection, however, the former’s flowers are quite different – fused and funnel-shaped. Valeriana sambucifolia looks very like valerian (V. officinalis), but it has less leaflet pairs (3–8) than the latter (6–11). Additionally, valerian lacks the surface runners that are typical of valeriana sambucifolia. Valerian grows further south in Finland than valeriana sambucifolia: it is centred in southern Finland and can stand shadier habitats.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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