Stachys macrantha Stachys macrantha Stachys macrantha Stachys byzantina Stachys byzantina Stachys byzantina

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Wood Betony

Betonica officinalis

  • Latin synonym: Stachys officinalis
  • Name also: Lousewort, Bishopswort, Purple Betony
  • Family: Mint Family – Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 30–80 cm (12–32 in.). Stem 4-edged, soft-hairy, internodes clearly longer than leaves.
  • Flower: Corolla irregular (zygomorphic), purple, 12–15 mm (0.5–0.6 in.) long, fused, bilabiate, long-tubed. Upper lip convex, lower lip shorter; lower lip 3-lobed, central lobe bigger than lateral lobes, obovate. Calyx almost regular (actinomorphic), 5-lobed, unclearly 10-veined; lobes sharp-pointed. Stamens 4, of which 2 short, 2 long. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Flowers in whorls forming a cylindrical spike, at most intermittent from base.
  • Leaves: Opposite and a basal rosette; long-stemmed. Blade narrowly ovate–elongated, shallowly cordate-based, round-tipped, with densely round-toothed margin. Subtending bracts small.
  • Fruit: 4-parted schizocarp. Carpel brown, slightly bristly, shiny.
  • Habitat: Gardens, parks, grazing land, forest margins, waste ground, harbours. Ornamental, left over and escape from old gardens.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Wood betony probably doesn’t grow in Finland as a native herb, even though the closest stands are just over Finland’s eastern border in Ladoga Karelia and despite the fact that in Finland itself there are stands that exist in very natural conditions. Apparently, however, it is a leftover from when it was cultivated as an ornamental or medicinal herb. The species is a very old and respected medicinal plant: already in ancient Egypt it was used as a general medicine to treat many complaints including wounds, digestive problems and breathing difficulties by smoking the leaves. Apart from its beneficial medicinal properties it was also thought to keep evil spirits at bay. In central Europe wood betony has kept its reputation as a medicinal herb right up to the present day. Nowadays wood betony is a good fit for the perennial bed – it is an undemanding, strong-growing, handsomely-flowering ornamental.

Big Betony & Lamb’s-ears Betony

Betonica macrantha (Stachys macrantha) & Stachys byzantina

Best-known betony members include big betony and lamb’s-ears betony. The attraction of the former is based on its its impressive, purple flowers, while the latter is valued for silver-grey leaves. Both species can escape from gardens to the wilds. Big betony’s flowers are doubly larger than wood betony’s and the leaves are more triangular.

Other species from the same family

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