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Stachys officinalis

Common Names: Bishop’s Wort, Wood Betony

Flowers June to October

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An erect perennial plant, with somewhat oblong flower heads about 3 cm across. Flowers are held proudly on almost leafless square stems emerging from rosettes. The leaves are narrow, toothed and mostly at the base of the plant. Betony flowers from early to late summer. Plants are long-lived and slow growing and spread by seed dropped late in the season.

Betony prefers dryish, light soils often on sunny banks and hedgerows, on heathland and other grassy places including, occasionally, the undisturbed margins of arable fields.  It is an indicator of ancient woodland.

Betony is first referred to in a work by the Roman physician Antonius Musa. He claimed it was effective against sorcery and it was one of the great ‘all-heals’ of medieval herbalists.

Betony is commonly found in old country churchyards, where it was planted in the past for its medicinal value and in the belief that it had powers that would ward off ghosts, goblins and other unwelcome spirits.


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