Lords and ladies
The starchy root of Lords and Ladies was once used to produce a home made version of arrowroot. This was called Portland sago. As all parts of the plant are poisonous it was not otherwise consumed.
Lords and ladies was recommended by some to treat sore throats and ringworm. It was used to encourage the afterbirth to detach.
The plant’s roots contained a lot of starch. This was extracted and used to stiffen the ruffs that were fashionable in Tudor times. The process of extracting the starch made peoples’ hands blistered and sore.
In the Middle ages this plant was associated with the act of making love. (Wonder why?!)
The flower is the easy to miss purple spike – the greenish-yellow hood that surrounds it is actually an adapted leaf. In the autumn Lords and ladies produces a spike of shiny bright red berries, which are very poisonous.
Unsurprisingly, given how it looks, a local name for Toothwort was ‘Corpse flower’. As a parasite, Toothwort has no need of chlorophyll to make nutrients. So it has no leaves and is not coloured green. One root will send up several flower stalks, making it appear that there are several plants, rather than one. Like fungi, they only appear above the soil when they are flowering.
Yellow archangel is an indicator of ancient woodlands. Young leaves can be eaten raw, while older one can be boiled or used to flavour soups. But Yellow archangel was not one of the more widely eaten plants. Yellow archangel was used to staunch bleeding and to treat sores and ulcers.
Yellow archangel was believed to protect people from evil spirits. It was also believed to protect cattle from a magical disease called elf-shot.
Green alkanet was grown and used to produce a red dye from its roots. It was a cheaper alternative to henna. Alkanet’ is derived from the Arabic ‘al-henna’ , which was the name of the Henna plant that the Egyptians used to produce red dye.
The deep tap root provides a reliable source of water and enables the plant to re-grow if the top is eaten.
More information about these, and many other flowers and berries, can be found in the Naturetale app.