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Hedge woundwort, Stachys silvatica.

NATIVE-------------------------------YES

MEDICINAL ------------------------YES

PHOTOGRAPHS-----------------YES

COMMON --------------------------YES

A common herb.

Hedge woundwort, Stachys sylvatica is a common herb of hedgerows and other shady places. When not in flower it can be mistaken for the stinging nettle because of its similar shaped foliage and the fact that they often share the same kind of habitat.

It is a plant that attains the height of 60cm or so with flowers arranged in spikes hence the genus name of Stachys a Latinised Greek word that means a spike. It is a member of the mint family Labiate, but lacks the odour associated with mints, conversely some say it has a pungent smell, personally I do not find it disagreeable and it is a good way to distinguish it when it is not in flower. The foliage has to be crushed to emit the odour.

Below---Components of hedge woundwort.

Basic biology of the Hedge woundwort.

The roots are rhizomes and creeping. They soon becOme established by this creeping root system. STEMS---are erect and may reach above 60cm. Like the rest of the genus and the mint family in general the stems of this plant are square. However, unlike the stems of the dead nettles which are hollow the stems of this species are solid. Although erect in stature they do produce branches.

LEAVES-- are relatively long stalked borne in opposite pairs, each pair being at right angles to the pair above and the pair below. The blade of the leaf is heart shaped, similar in form to the nettle having saw like teeth along the margins.

FLOWERS-- are arranged in whorls {rings} around the top of the stems as in other species of Stachys, such as the marsh woundwort, each whorl having leaf like bracts {see illustration above} beneath it seperated from each other by a small gap on the stem. The whole forming a terminal spike.

There are rarely more than six individual flowers in each whorl. The individual flowers have an entire bottom lip, spotted quaintly with white dots or marks over the dull purple background colour, the sides are folded. The upper lip is convexed and slightly sticky to touch. The four stamens beneath the protective hood, formed by the top of the flower, have two or three longer than the others.

The flowers are pollinated by bees and long tongued flies which are guided to the flower by means of a channel of minute white hairs which lead the insect under the hood where they get dusted by pollen. This in turn gets transferred to other flowers as the insects go about their daily business. The bronze shield bug is associated with the foliage.

When the flower has faded and the seeds are formed in the shape of four nutlets the calyx teeth become rigid. As the nutlets ripen the teeth contract and the nutlets are dispersed.

Medicinal virtues of the Hedge woundwort.

In the early days of herbal medicine whole works were devoted to the woundworts which including the marsh woundwort, hedge woundwort,the downy woundwort, yarrow and lady's mantle. They were the mainstay of herbal medicine. The whole herb is styptic and its main use was to stem the flow of blood. The plant also yields a yellow dye. The stem produces a strong fibre which was utilised in days gone by. Modern day science has proved that the hedge woundwort has natural anti septic properties .

My experience of this herb can be conveyed by this curtailed story of a country ramble. One day while litter picking around a local lake I cut my hand on a piece of broken glass. The cut was not wide but deep in the manner of a stab wound. Luckily I had a tissue to wipe away the blood which also helped to keep it at bay. Finding a hedge woundwort plant {abundant at this locality} I placed a large leaf over the wound and kept pressure on it as I made my home.

On arrival, i kept part of the leaf covering the wound, which itself was covered by a sticking plaster. the following morning I removed the plaster  and the leaf, and to my surprise, the wound was completely closed and clean. The healing "scar" was visible for a week or so but I was able to do my daily jobs without any sign of the wound reopening. I have since used the foliage on countless small wounds with the same result-a closed, clean wound. This practicable plant is well worth identifying.

Below--hedge woundwort in its shady habitat--note the nettle like foliage and hairy square stems

photo-Dal

Hedge woundwort is not for internal use.

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