2017 March 25

These low-growing plants with clusters of irregularly-blooming purple flowers are common in our backyard. I photographed them on July 19, 2016, but they seem to bloom for a pretty extended period that covers most of the summer.


The flower heads look kind of scruffy, because the florets don’t all bloom at once.


The individual florets are a pleasant light purple, and if they were bigger these would probably be popular ornamental flowers.


It looks like one of the petals of each floret makes a kind of hood over the main body of the flower, which probably forces pollinating insects to force their way inside and rub against the stigma and pistil. It might also keep the pollen from being washed away by raindrops.


So, these look like “Heal-all” or “Self-heal”, Prunella vulgaris. It is somewhat related to the plantain and mullein that I posted previously, both of which also have irregularly-blooming seedheads that continuously bloom over a period of months. The plant is likely of European origin, although it is now found all around the Northern hemisphere. It was documented so early that it either spread around the world on its own without our assistance, or was spread almost immediately as soon as humans moved into an area, so that it was well-established by the time the botanists arrived to document things.

The plant is edible, and can be either eaten raw or boiled up as a pot-herb. It has something of a reputation as a good material for applying as a poultice for skin rashes, or as a wound dressing to keep it clean and promote healing. Of course, now that we have actual sterile wound dressings, the demand for this sort of thing is way down.

One Response
  1. Carole permalink
    March 25, 2017

    I see we have them in north Florida. Another common name is carpenterweed. Perhaps they help to heal a carpenter’s injury.

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