Thursday, July 31, 2014

Plant of the Week: Gentian

This plant has been recognised as the source of a valuable drug since the time of the ancient Egyptians, for there are records of it on. a papyrus found between the bones of a mummy at Thebes, and it was also probably one of the sacrificial herbs which were buried with Egyptians of high rank.

The old name Gentian was given it in early Grecian times in honour of a King Gentius, who experimented with herbs. There are many varieties of garden Gentians, most of them of the mar­vellous blue of the summer sky, though Gentiana lutea, a large Alpine variety, is of soft bright yellow.

As a rule, unfortunately, Gentians are not very easy to establish in gardens.

The Gentian is an annual, and its root (the part required for medicine) is small and short. It has a very bitter flavour, which at once associates it with tonic drugs. Flower-lovers will be glad to know that nearly all the supplies of the drug come from the Yellow Gentian, which grows abundantly in various mountaino­us parts of Europe, so there is little fear that our own sparsely scattered Gentians will be eradicated.

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Artwork: Gentiana Sceptum

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