Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Naming of Weeds - Meadowsweet

The Naming of Weeds - Meadowsweet  Filipendula ulmaria

Being on the west side of  the British Isles we get a lot of rain in Pembrokeshire, and at this time of year our lanes become feathered with the cream white blooms of  sweet smelling Meadowsweet, a plant that likes damp meadows.  Another common name used widely across Europe is "the Queen of the Meadow"

The Tudors made good use of their knowledge of weeds.  Some weeds such as Lavender and Lady's Bedstraw were used to repel insects and kill fleas, these were often stuffed into mattresses and called Bedstraws.  Other plants were chosen for their sweet smell which disguised the insanitary conditions of their homes and palaces, these were dried and made into pot-pourri or scattered on the floors as  Strewing Herbs.  Meadowsweet was particularly loved by Elizabeth I for this purpose
In  John Gerards Herbal (16th century) it says

'Queene Elizabeth of famous memory, did more desire it than any other herb to strew her chambers withall.'


'The leavs and floures farr excell all other strong herbs, for to deck up houses, to straw in chambers, halls, and banqueting houses in summer time, for the smell thereof makes the heart merrie, delighteth the senses..."

Meadowsweet was also known as Bridewort, because it was strewn in churches for festivals and weddings, and often made into bridal garlands.
Meadowsweet has traditionally been used for culinary uses.  It is said to tastes of almonds and has been widely used across Norhern Europe as a flavouring herb for meads, wines and vinegars, hence another of its common names was  "Meadsweet".   The flowers can be collected, dried  and made into tea which is supposed to be good for sore throats and colds.  The roots can be dug up and peeled and crushed, they smells like Germolene, and when chewed is a good natural remedy for relieving headaches.  But is also induces Asthma in some people.

In  1897, a German Chemist working called Hoffmann synthesised acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) from Meadowsweet.   This was drug marketed by Bayer under the trade name Asprin 

Meadowsweets Latin Name Filipendula comes from the Latin noun filum, a thread, and the Latin adjective pendulus which means hanging - a reference to the way that the underground tubers hang upon fibrous thread-like roots. The specific epithet ulmaria is a reference to elm trees (Ulmus species), whose wrinkled leaves are similar to the leaflets of Meadowsweet.


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