This pretty little wildflower, having been known as Stachys officinalis has recently been renamed Betonica officinalis. It is a slow growing, long-lived plant with attractive spikes of rich pink-mauve flowers that are very attractive to bees and butterflies as a nectar source. The flowers, which rise from dark green crinkly leaves, keep their rich colour throughout the entire summer and look stunning when growing en-masse.
They can be used in shortish grass, in hedgerows and at the edge of woodlands. The plant is highly tolerant of cutting and can thrive in spring/autumn and autumn cutting regimes. Hardy down to -32°C (-25°F), Betony prefers damp but not waterlogged sites and although it can be found in slightly calcareous situations it has a preference for weakly acidic soils.
Betony is found throughout England and Wales but is generally absent from Scotland and is rare in Ireland. In Ireland, Betony is classified as Endangered and is protected by the 1999 Flora Protection Order.
Sowing: Sow March to Sept or October to February
Seeds can be sown directly or can be sown in pots and transplanted at plug plant stage. Seeds will germinate quicker if they are given a period of cold. The ideal temperatures are around 5°C (41°F). In autumn in a cool greenhouse or left outdoors they will go through the seasons naturally and receive the cold temperatures needed. Throughout the warmer months germination can be aided by stratification. Germination is irregular often between 30 and 90 days.
Sowing direct Autumn to early spring:
Sow in autumn or early spring directly into prepared ground. Ensure that ground is free from weeds and stones. Cover soil with 12mm (½in) of soil and water.
Sowing in pots. October to February.
Sow the seeds in pots or trays containing good quality seed compost, covering them with a fine layer of grit. After watering, place the seed container in an unheated greenhouse or in a coldframe against a north wall, making sure they are protected against mice, and leave them there until the spring. The compost should be kept moist but not wet at all times, if the seed containers are out in the open then some shelter has to be given against excessive rain.
In the spring transplant the seedlings that have germinated to 7cm (3in) pots. Place the container in the greenhouse or onto a well lit but not sunny windowsill and keep the compost moist. The warmth should trigger off germination in any remaining seeds. As each seed germinates transplant it into its own pot.
Sowing in pots. March to September.
In warmer months germination can be aided by using stratification. This is simple imitating the temperature fluctuations of winter to spring seasons. There are two methods - either place the seeds with a little moistened compost in a plastic bag and place in the fridge for two weeks, then sow as usual. Otherwise, sow then place the entire tray in the fridge (not the freezer) for two to three weeks.
After this time place the container outside in a cold frame or plunge them up to the rims in a shady part of the garden border and cover with glass or clear plastic. Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle.
Grow on until established in cool conditions. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out into their permanent positions, space 30cm (12in) apart. Divide mature clumps in the spring.
Meadows & Hedgerows, Ground cover, Light woodland.
Betony is said to gently tone and strengthen the nervous system while it also has a relaxing action. It's also said to be good for neuralgia, stomach trouble, heartburn, indigestion, stomach cramps, hepatitis, palsy, convulsions, gout, colic, colds, flu, hysteria, vertigo, nervousness, anxiety, poor memory, tension and poisonous bites.
A different way to take advantage of this herb's protection is to dye some wool with it: it makes chartreuse on wool with alum mordant.
Stachys officinalis was the most important medicinal herb to the Anglo-Saxons of early medieval Britain. It was held in high repute by the Greeks who extolled its qualities. An old Italian proverb, ' Sell your coat and buy Betony' and 'He has as many virtues as Betony,' a saying of the Spaniards, show what value was placed on its remedial properties. Antonius Musa, chief physician to the Emperor Augustus in Rome, wrote a long treatise, showing it was a certain cure for no less than forty seven diseases.
It was largely cultivated in the physic gardens, both of the apothecaries and the monasteries, and may still be found growing about the sites of these ancient buildings.
In addition, Betony was endowed with power against evil spirits, it was carefully planted in churchyards and hung about the neck as an amulet or charm, sanctifying, as Erasmus tells us, 'those that carried it about them,' and being also 'good against fearful visions' and an efficacious means of 'driving away devils and despair.' In Wales, wood betony was worn in the hat to keep off witches. Historically it was even taken before drinking as a way to decrease the chances of hangover!
Betony is found throughout England and Wales in meadows, lightly grazed pasture, hedge banks and open woodland.but is generally absent from Scotland and Ireland. In Ireland, Betony is classified as Endangered and is protected by the 1999 Flora Protection Order.
Until recently this species was know by the old botanical name of Stachys officinalis. The genus name, Stachys is a Greek word, signifying a spike, from the mode of flowering.
The species name officinalis means that it was officially recognised as a medicinal herb. The word is derived from the Latin officina meaning a storeroom (of a monastery) for medicines and necessaries. It literally means 'of or belonging in an officina'. It conjures up images of a storeroom where apothecaries and herbalists stored their herbs. When Linnaeus invented the binomial system of nomenclature, he gave the specific name 'officinalis' to plants (and sometimes animals) with an established medicinal, culinary, or other use.
The names Betonica is said by Pliny to have been first Vettonica, from the Vettones a people of Spain, but modern authors resolve the name into the primitive or Celtic form of bew (a head) and ton (good), it being good for complaints in the head. The commonn name of Betony is derived from Betonica
Other common names include: heal-all, self-heal, woundwort, bishopswort, bishop's elder, st.bride's comb, lamb's ears, lousewort, wood betony, purple betony, spiked betony and hedgenettle. Woundwort derives from its past use for the treatment of wounds.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 500mg Average Seed Count 280 seeds Family Lamiaceae Genus Betonica (Formerly Stachys) Species officinalis Cultivar Wildflower of the British Isles Synonym Stachys Betonica, Betonica officinalis Common Name Formerly Stachys officinalis, Wood Betony, Bishopswort.
Wildflower of Britain and Ireland
Other Common Names Purple Betony, Heal-All, Self-Heal, Woundwort, Bishopswort, Bishop's Elder,
St.Bride's Comb, Lamb's Ears, Lousewort, Wood Betony,
Purple Betony, Spiked Betony and Hedgenettle
Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to -32°C (-25°F), Flowers Spikes of pink-mauve flowers Natural Flower Time June to September Height 45-60cm (18-24in) Position Full Sun/Partial Shade Soil Damp but not waterlogged soil. Time to Sow March to Sept or Oct to Feb Germination Germination is irregular often between 30 and 90 days.