Hedge Woundwort; Stachys sylvatica

Hedge Woundwort is in the nettle family and has many characteristic features of the Labiates, (more recently known as the Lamiaceae). It has square stems the flowers are arranged in whorls up the stem and the individual flowers have the typical nettle appearance with a lower lip and a small tube shape structure. The  leaves are nettle like but do not sting and are quite hairy, you could say soft and furry.  Should you touch or crush the leaves then they have a powerful and unpleasant smell. Is this an alternative to stings and designed to put browsing animals from eating it.

Of course the nettle that everyone is familiar with, the Stinging nettle does not have typical Labiate flowers, it is wind pollinated and has long dangley, almost catkin like flowers, far removed from the flowers of White dead Nettle and Yellow Archangel.

The other feature of this species  is the colour of the flowers, which is a dark purple/red, sometimes described as beetroot red and quite different to most other related species. There are other woundworts but generally their flowers are a much lighter shade, more pink in colour.  Red dead nettle has similar colour flowers but is a much smaller plant and the flowers are more bunched up, not in separate whorls as shown here. Hedge woundwort will grow up to one meter in height.

This is the leaf which as you can see here is very similar to other species in the group, maybe a bit less jagged, but it is the smell which is the best way to identify it. It is peculiar and difficult to describe, I would say somewhat plasticy, smoky and chemical like… Could I be the next Jilly Goolden?

 

This species is quite shade tolerant but  I would describe it as more of a hedgerow plant than a woodland species. It starts to flower in June and then goes on throughout the summer.

As the name suggests, it has been used in the past as a herbal remedy, supposedly good at stopping bleeding and so a plant used to treat wounds..

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