This is a plant you usually find growing out of a dry stone wall. But of course it will grow from cracks in rock faces and cliffs. It is also quite shade tolerant.
It is also known as Wall Pennywort, which is what I usually call it. I suppose as time moves on less and less people will know what a penny is and so Navelwort will become the name which is most often used. The reasons for the common names are quite obvious and relate to the leaf shape. Even the scientific name is a reference to the similarity to a ‘belly button’.
The leaves of this plant are edible and are highly regarded by foragers and chefs. I first became aware of this when I visited Whitebrook Restaurant in the Wye valley. This Michelin stared establishment uses lots of locally sourced wild herbs. This is what they say on their web site
‘Discover examples of our delicious new menus below. All prepared with passion and care under Chris Harrod’s direction, using locally sourced foods and ingredients freshly foraged from our own surroundings.
We use an original combination of herbs such as Pennywort, Three Cornered Garlic, Bitter cress, Wild onion, Hogweed, Lesser Celandine and to inspire the special style of our cuisine, and to bring the flavours of the valley to the plate.’
I cant remember what dish the Pennywort leaves were used on but I do remember that they are succulent and refreshing. The young leaves are quite thick and have a slightly spongy texture, this holds in the juices, these are slightly tangy and at the same time mildly sweet.
OK having given our local restaurant a plug lets get back to Wall Pennywort, incidentally if you are tempted to pick a few leaves to add to your bacon sandwich then be careful how you remove them from the parent plant as it would be quite easy to pull the entire plant out from the wall in which it is growing if you just tug at the leaves. These plants do not seem to grip that firmly to their substrate unlike most plants that grow out of cracks in rocks and walls. Best to cut them with a small sharp pen knife.
It is a member of the Stonecrop (Crassulaceae) family, plants which also grow on walls a rocky places. Photo of English Stonecrop growing out of a wall at Tintern Abbey. The flowers of Navelwort grow up quite tall into a spike and are more impressive than those of the other stonecrops. The colour can vary from creamy off white through to pinks. They normally flower in May/June time.
I have some photos of this plant in flower….somewhere…… but having spent a couple of hours searching through my poorly archived files of photos I have now given up.. In a couple of months I will take new photos and add them to this page.
And here is one my son took for me on his phone and then I have tweaked in photoshop.