Today’s Treasures – Wild Flowers
Wild flowers feature in folklore as well as herbalism and the origins of some of their common and Latin names are fascinating. Bird’s Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is so called because the seedpods look like a bird’s foot. The latin name ‘lotus’ is Greek for clover and corniculatus means ‘in the form of a horn’ because of the shape of the seed-pods.
Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) Geranium is Greek meaning ‘a crane’ because of the shape of the fruit – like the bill of a crane – and robertianum is thought to be after Robert, Duke of Normandy, who was famous for his medical work in the Middle Ages. The plant was once used for staunching blood.
Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum). Thymus from the Greek thumos – thuein ‘to sacrifice’ because in ancient times the plant was used as incense in Greek temples. Serpyllum again from the Greek herpullon – herpein – to creep because of its snakelike habit of creeping along the ground. The oil was used by the Egyptians for embalming and the Romans used it to purify their rooms. Thyme has antiseptic properties, it is still used as a mouthwash; made into a tea it helps soothe sore throats and cure infected gums. It is also purported to be good for hangovers! And of course it’s a very useful culinary herb for soups, stews, stocks and stuffing.
Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) is named after St. Veronica. The original common English name for speedwells was Fluellen – derived from the old Welsh llysiau Llywelyn – the herb of St. Llywelyn.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) from the Latin matrix ‘womb’ because the plant was thought to be good for uterine diseases and chamomilla from the Greek chamaimelon meaning ‘apple on the ground’ since the plant is apple-scented. Chamomile has many uses for herbalists – fresh or dried chamomile flowers can be made into tea that relieves anxiety, aids digestion and helps you sleep.
Published in the July edition of the Whitchurch Gossip.