Great Plantain & Tansy

BF 32 Great Plantain and Tansy.jpg
BF 32 Great Plantain and Tansy.jpg

Great Plantain & Tansy

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Weybrode

Plantago major (broadleaf plantain, white man's foot, or greater plantain) is a plant in the plantain family Plantaginaceae. The plant is native to most of Europe, northern and central Asia and is widely naturalised elsewhere. Called Great Waybrede, Waybread or Waybroad in parts of northern England, the generic name Plantago derives from the Latin planta – foot - the broad leaves pressed to the ground. When introduced into New England, Australia and New Zealand it was called Englishman's Foot. In a recent analysis from the summit of Plynlimon (a massif dominating northern Ceredigion, Wales) successive increases in Plantain pollen in layers of peat bog reflected clearance of forests in Neolithic, Bronze, Iron Age and mediaeval times. An Anglo-Saxon poem refers to Plantain as 'Waybroad, Mother of Worts', and was highly regarded. Surviving pedestrians and cart wheels it was used to heal crushing, tearing and bruising. It is one of the most abundant and accessible medicinal herbs and contains allantoin, aucubin, ursolic acid, flavonoids, and asperuloside. Rider Haggard (1) says that the Norfolk Poacher’s grandmother advised Plantain for 'limbago'. Enid Porter (2) records a decoction of the leaves of Plantain is a sure remedy for the disease of the bladder, and the leaves are still recommended for insect and nettle stings (though not snakebite, despite the American name of Snakeweed). Grigson (3) reproduces a woodcut from Mattioli (1562); Arber (4) has a small woodcut from Herbarium Apuleii Platonici (6) and a woodcut from Fuchs' (7) De Historia Stirpium (1542), and Blunt (8) has a woodcut from a Latin herbarius of 1499·

 
Wyld tanse

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a perennial, herbaceous flowering plant of the aster family, native to temperate Europe and Asia. It has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America, and in some areas has become invasive. It is also known as common tansy, bitter buttons, cow bitter, or golden buttons. It is a native plant found in roadsides, hedgerows and waste places. It is common all over the British Isles and has been cultivated since the Middle Ages as a medicinal and culinary herb. Its medicinal uses were varied, since it was used both to stay miscarriages, and married couples anxious to start a family would eat salads containing Tansy. [Where there were wild rabbits there would be Tansy, and rabbits had large families]. An infusion of the leaves was used for intestinal worms and was recommended for (female) disorders such as hysteria and nausea. The aromatic leaves were mixed with cakes and puddings according to one W. H. Barrett (2) which may be beneficial for health. Parkinson (9) reported they 'are very profitable for those stomachs that are troubled with bad humours'. But they are also unpalatable, sometimes prepared at Easter time in memory of the bitter herbs traditionally eaten by the Jews at Passover. Another use is as a repellent - protecting corn from mice, meat from bluebottle flies, and corpses from worms. Powdered Tansy leaves placed in horses' food will make their coats shine.

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(1) Rider Haggard, Lilias (1892-1968), author, I Walked by Night, editor (1935);

(2) Porter, Enid (1909-1984) Cambridgeshire author and curator, Notebooks;

(3) Grigson, Geoffrey (1905-1985) anthologist and naturalist, The Englishman's Flora, London, 1955;

(4) Mattioli, Pietro Andrea Gregorio (Matthiolus) (1501–1577) Sienese physician and naturalist Commentarii, 1565; 

(5) Arber, Agnes (1879-1960) plant morphologist and anatomist, botanic historian and biology philosopher, Herbals: their origin and evolution. A chapter in the history of botany, 1938;

(6) Pseudo-Apuleius is the name given to the author of a 4th-century herbal known as Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius or Herbarium Apuleii Platonici

(7) Fuchs, Leonhart (1501–1566) German physician and botanist, De Historia Stirpium Commentarii Insignes (Notable commentaries on the history of plants), Basel, 1542;

(8) Blunt, Wilfred (1901-1987) teacher, artist, author, The Art of Botanical Illustration. London, 1950;

(9) Parkinson, John (1567–1650), herbalist, Theatrum Botanicum (The Botanical Theatre or Theatre of Plants) 1640;