Common Figwort; Scrophularia nodosa

Common Figwort comes into flower in June, it has quite small flowers that are well spaced apart and in a sort of spike. The individual flowers are purple almost brown in colour and as I said small, but on close examination they are quite interesting, a bit like a truncated foxglove. Some think it also looks like Deadly Nightshade, but I think they are fairly easily distinguished. However if in doubt then check out the stem. Figwort has a square stem like all the Labiatae family and the stem of Deadly Nightshade is circular.

This species grows in one corner of our wood in Monmouthshire, it is restricted to a region where it is wet, indeed at sometimes there is even the beginnings of a little stream but most of the year there is no flowing water but it is still quite damp.

It is also favoured by various insects, they are attracted to a rather unpleasant smell produced by the flowers. There is  a little weevil which feeds on it and it is aptly  named the Figwort weevil (Cionus scrophulariae). Also there is a caterpillar which feeds on it and this is the larva of the Mullein Moth (Cucullia verbasci). So if you come across this plant then it is worth giving it a close look to see what else might be there.

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There are several other species of Figwort which you could conceivably come across in a woodland and they are Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata), Green Figwort (Scrophularia umbrosa) and Balm leaved Figwort (Scrophularia scorodonia). They are all quite rare and the flowers are all fairly similar. The way to tell them apart is the leaves.and stems. Water Figwort has a compound leaf, it is trifoliate with  one large leaflet and then a pair of small leaflets at the base. Green Figwort has just simple leaves but they are a bit more indented than the Common Figwort, also the square stem has fringed edges. Finally Balm-leaved Figwort has leaves that are quite hairy and look like balm leaves.

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