Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sweet Woodruff - Asperula odorata

Sweet Woodruff

In my garden I have a patch of woodruff, its small white flowers in their ruff of green leaves is a pretty sight. When dried it smells of new mown hay (due to courmarin being one of its constituent parts). Grigson records that it was called 'kiss me quick', 'sweethearts' and ladies-in-the-hay', and in the 15th Century 'wodrove' garlands were hung in the churches. He also mentions that it dispelled melancholia, and that the dried flowers make a delicious tea. There is a quite a large patch in the countryside near to the Civil War monument at Langridge.

But on turning the page of Grigson's Englishman's Flora, another woodruff jumped out of the page, and in Grigson's own words.... Squinancywort (asperula Cynanchica)
Every time a botanist journeyed from London to Bath, he was tempted to get down from his horse and climb Silbury, as Thomas Johnson had done in 1634, for in 1570 the Flemish botanist De l'Obel had written having been up the mound..this 'acclivem cretaceam et arridam montem arte militari aggestum'(this steep chalky hill dry hill raised by military art) as he called it.... On Silbury he found a plant blossoming in July and August which seems to have been Asperula Cynanchica, which he called Anglica Saxifraga, the first record for Gt.Britain.
Marjorie Blamey in her Illustrated Flora says that the flower has a vanilla scent, the leaves in whorls very similar to sweet woodruff, and the flowers pale pink to purplish outside, white inside, the whole plant sprawling and prostate.

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