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Squinancywort: fighting tonsillitis

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Squinancywort: fighting tonsillitis

Squinancywort (Asperula cynanchica) is surely an odd name for a flower? It is certainly a unique label and one that helps ensure the name is not forgotten when the flower is found in the wild.

Squinancywort is one a group of flowers that you can almost predict you will find on chalk soils where the grass is thin. It does not grow under any other circumstances or in any other situations but is likely to be frequent in the conditions it favours. It is a small plant and cannot compete with vigorous grass growth so it takes its chances in its own niche. A member of the bedstraw family it has the bedstraw's distinctive small cluster of four petalled flowers, the petals forming a cross. Often cream in colour but sometimes tinged with pink the flowers can be found from May through until September.  

So, what of the strange name? In medieval times it was used as a cure for quinsy and was once known as squinsywort but somewhere along the line it became a little corrupted. Quinsy was a rather nasty and extreme version of tonsillitis and was potentially fatal. How effective squinsywort was I have no idea.


 

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This is just my nature note: for lots more information including distribution maps, status charts, identification guidance and more photographs go to the species home page by clicking/tapping the icon