Rosebay willowherb Great willowherb Elephant hawk moth
Rosebay Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium).
On the breeze my fluff is blown; So my airy seeds are sown.
Where the earth is burnt and sad, I will come to make it glad.
All forlorn and ruined places, All neglected open spaces,
I can cover- only think- With a mass of rosy pink.
Burst then, seed-pods; breezes, blow!
Far and wide my seeds shall go!
Cicely Mary Barker 1925
Rosebay willowherb is the only species that is generally safe to use for food and medicinal uses. As a herb it is used dried for whooping cough and asthma. As a food plant the young shoots can be steamed and peeled and its pith is used to thicken soups. The leaves can be used as a garnish or dried for a tea.
This plant became well known during the war as it brightened up London bomb sites that it effectively colonised in World War Two.
Hoverflies, bees and the caterpillars of the elephant hawk moth are supported by this plant.
The Great Willowherb (E.hirsutum) has a local name of ‘codlins and cream.’ Some say codlin means cooking apples due to the smell of the plant undetectable by most people or maybe it refers to the seed capsule known as ‘Codde’. Hirsutum means hairy which the plant is and ‘Willowherb’ refers to its slender stems and leaves.
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.