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WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Hyssop. Hyssopus officinalis. Illustration of components.

Hyssop illustration. Public domain.

Illustration Hyssopus officinalis0.jpg

Introduction

Hyssop belongs to the genus Hyssopus and it is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae. It has many synonyms including Hyssopus alopecuroides, H.angustifolia and H.hirsutus. It is a plant native to the Mediterranean region and to parts of the Middle East.  It has ,however, been introduced to many countries as a garden plant {see below} and has escaped over the wall to become naturalized in some of them ,particularly in central Europe. It is a species resistant to drought and thrives in dry rocky places in its native range.

Hyssopus officinalis

Courtesy of Armin Jagel  CC BY-SA 3.0 License. Uploaded to commons via Lemmikkipuu.

Description of Hyssop offficinalis.

Hyssop is an evergreen,sub-shrub,or bushy herb,growing one to two feet tall. It has square stems, {typical of the mint family}, and linear leaves. The flowers occur in whorls of six to fifteen individual flowers which are borne on very short stems. The flowers occur in somewhat lop-sided spikes. The corolla of the flower is blue,short and tubular, with a short flat upper lip, hairy on the outside. The lower lip is longer and has three lobes. The four stamens are longer than the corolla and the style even longer. They flower from August until October {UK}.

Hyssop growing in Denmark.

Courtesy of Sten. CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Hyssop medicinal and other uses.

The name Hyssop derives from the Greek azab which indicates a holy herb, for it was employed to cleanse holy places. The plant has long been used in herbal medicine,and has Expectorant, diaphoretic {causes sweating}, stimulant, pectoral and carminative properties.

The main healing virtue seem to derive from the volatile oil. Mrs Greaves in her famous book 'Modern Herbal' states that " it admirably  promotes expectoration and in chronic catarrh its diaphoretic and stimualnt properties combine to render it of especial value."

Long before Mrs Greaves's time, Culpeper , in the 1600's  wrote in his herbal " Hyssop is so well known to be grown in every garden that it is needless to describe it". He goes on to say  " It is an excellent herb for quincy or swelling in the throat,to wash and gargle with it, being boiled in figs. It helpeth the toothache when boiled with vinegar and gargled therewith. The hot vapours of the decoction taken by a funnel into the ears,easeth the inflammation  and singing noises of them"

The above information is for historical purposes and not intended for self preparations or for use as a home guide for such preparations. Never take nothing internally unless you can be positive about the identity of the plant. 

Hyssop officinalis flower stem.

Courtesy of Isidre blanc  CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

Hyssop in cultivation.

The cultivars are a genus of perennials and semi-evergreen,or deciduous shrubs grown for their flowers which attract bees and butterflies and for their aromatic foliage which also has culinary and medicinal uses.

They may be grown as a low hedge and are fully hardy. They require full sun and fertile well-drained soil. Cut back hard, unless grown as a low hedge ,then trim back lightly, in spring. They may be propagated by soft wood cuttings in summer or by seed in autumn.

Hyssopus officinalis {Hyssop}, is a semi-evergreen or deciduous, bushy shrub,with aromatic leaves that are narrowly oval and of a deep green colour. Small blue flowers appear from mid summer until early autumn. It is sometimes used as a culinary herb. It requires full sun and fertile well drained soil. They are fully hardy and may attain the height of five feet with a similar spread.

Hyssopus officinalis sub-species aristatus.---This is an upright species a dense shrub up to two feet {60 cm }in height with a spread of about three meters. It has aromatic narrowly-lance-shaped foliage of a bright green colour. During mid summer until early autumn they produce two-lipped, densely clustered dark blue flowers. 

 

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