Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - 'V'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few of the wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them may fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'V' Valerian, violets

I first becamed aware of Valerian when visiting Cornwall where it grows by roadsides and sprouts from walls.

Red Valerian (centranthus ruber)
It's also know by the name Red Jupiter's Beard.

The leaves have a bitter taste but if young leaves are boiled the taste disappears; they are used in 'gourmet' salads apparently

Butterflies and day-flying moths find its nectar irresistible. The downy seeds are easily spread by the wind.

Common Valerian (valeriana officialis) is the second of the three wild species that occur in Britain.

Common Valerian
This can grow to 5 feet tall in rough grassland, hedges and beside streams. Its flowers have a vanilla like smell, but it's the dried roots smelling like new leather that are attractive to cats.

The dried roots have also been used in linen drawers. Valerian has herbal uses - particularly as a nerve tonic, or to cure anxiety and to relieve the symptoms of St Vitus' dance and epilepsy.

Marsh Valerian has separate plants for male and female flowers and spreads by creeping stems. Its flowers are small and pale pink; its seeds disperse on feathery parachutes.

Common Dog Violet
Common Dog Violets are unscented and perhaps that is why their name implies that they are inferior in some way to the sweet violet.

The Sweet Violet is one of the first wild flowers to bloom after winter. Its delicious scent definitely lifts the spirits. Its flowers are a deep purple colour, or sometimes white like these I found in a local wood.

Sweet Violets (viola odorata)
Its leaves have a characteristic heart shape. In ancient Greece it was the flower of Aphrodite, the goddess of love as well as being the symbol of Athens.

Is petals were once strewn on cottage floors as an air-freshener. Other uses include in toiletries and confectionery.


  • Red Valerian - 21 May 2009, ex, by Rod Allday - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic
  • Common Valerian, Near River Leven, Scotland - 21 July 2007, ex geograph,org,uk, By Lainch Rig - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic
  • Common Dog Violet - 27 April 2007, ex, by Anne Burgess - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic


aw said...

More lovely wild flowers, Bob. Red Valerian grows in walls throughout our village and takes root in the garden given half a chance but the insects love it. It strikes me this was a very apt subject for this month as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakepeare's death as he included many of these flowers in his plays, often referring to them by some of the alternative names you have found.

Wendy said...

The wild violet is so pretty but invasive. I'm constantly digging them up because they'll choke out everything else. How dare a nuisance be so pretty.

mshatch said...

Lovely flowers. I especially love the violets. I'm not sure if we have Valerian here in the states.

Jo said...

It's in my mind I have heard of another use for valerian. Guess I will have to google. Is there any relationship between sweet violets and African violets?

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I love red valerian even if it does threaten to take over the garden.

Liz A. said...

Why does valerian sound familiar? It's been used somewhere, likely in fiction, for something. It'll come back to me, probably long after I've signed off for the night.

Liz A. from
Laws of Gravity

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob - love the valerian we see around the hedgerows - and particularly in Cornwall or rocky shores ... and violets always so pretty to see at our feet.

I thought you might use Viper's Bugloss ... love the name! Cheers Hilary

Kristin said...

I have a few violets in my wild front yard. I wish they would spread.

Finding Eliza