Easily mistaken for : Burnet-Saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga) but that is shorter and has longer leaflets singly-pinnate leaves with more leaflets.
Easily mis-identified as : Lesser Water-Parsnip (Berula erecta) but that has bracts beneath the umbels and bracteoles beneath the umbellets.
Some similarities to :
Greater Water-parsnip (Sium latifolium) but that too has bracts beneath both umbels and umbellets and at up to 2m high is far taller.
No relation to :
Burnets such as Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), Salad Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba ssp. sanguisorba) or Fodder Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba ssp. balearicum) [plants with similar names from the Rose Family (Roseaceae)] nor to any Saxifrages such as Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata), Starry Saxifrage (Saxifraga stellaris) or Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) [plants from the Saxifrage Family (Saxifragaceae)].
It is native and grows on shady grassy road verges, hedgerows and in the dark margins of woods within the enlarged central area of the UK (encompassing Lancs, Yorks, Derbys, Midlands, Shropshire, Leicester and those counties inbetween) with populations also occurring in Kent and South Devon.
The leaves of this plant (which are mostly singly-pinnate, but a few are bi-pinnate) are variable with regards to both the shape and the teeth of the leaflets of which it is constructed. Wikipedia makes mention of five varieties, which may account for the variability in leaflet shape, assuming that these also grow in the UK. The varieties mentioned are rosea, macrodonta, orientalis, dissecta and bipinnata, with the varietal name seemingly accounting for at least some of the reported possible leaf shapes. But no UK plant ID books make any mention of these varieties, so they may not be extant in the UK.
A famous immediate relative of Greater Burnet-Saxifrage, in the same Pimpinella genus, is called
Anise (Pimpinella anisum) (which should not be confused with the totally un-related (they are not even from the same Apiaceae / Umbellifer family)
Star Anise (Illicium verum) nor with
Japanese Star Anise (Illicium anisatum) which both have similar but not identical tastes - but are less expensive to produce than Anise itself, which has rapidly lost ground to these near-substitutes). Anise is used to flavour Aniseed Balls and several liqueurs such as Ricard, Pernod, Ouzo, Absinthe, Abisette and Sambuca amongst many others from around the World.
MAJOR CONSTITUENTS OF the ESSENTIAL OIL
The essential oil is claimed to contain:
Plus over 100 other products below 1%, some of which may well be significant.
- 25.3% alpha-Bisabolene
- 7.8% MethylThymolEther
p-Cymene-2,5-Diol ** not drawn ...
IsoPropyl Tiglate ** not drawn ...
PseudoEugenol ** not drawn ...
ThymoHydroQuinone DimethylEther) is found in the essential oils of plants belonging to the Dandelion & Daisy Family (Asteraceae) such as as well as in this Umbellifer Family (Apiaceae) plant Greater Burnet-saxifrage. 2,5-Dimethoxy-p-Cymene is closely related to ThymoQuinone and it's dimer
DiThymoQuinone which both occur in Nigella sativa, a non-native plant which is not listed in Stace III.
β-Caryophyllene also occurs both in Hop (Humulus lupinus) and
Hemp (Cannabis sativa) as well as Oregano (Origanum vulgare),
Black Pepper (Piper nigrum). It is an aromatic bicyclic sesquiterpene but with only a weak aromatic taste but can nevertheless activate the endocannabinoid system in mammals. It is not psychoactive and targets only the CB2 receptors in the human body - which have promise to combat many inflammatory disorders such as Multiple Schlerosis, Arthritis, Bladder Cystitis and some kinds of dementia without the associated 'high's of Marijuana. Found in many preservatives, fragrances, additives and flavouring agents, it has a fairly rare cyclobutane moiety.
Caryophyllene Oxide is the same as β-caryophyllene but with the double-bond in the 9-membered carbon ring replaced with an epoxy group. It has both a woody type smell and flavour and is the chemical by which cannabis is detected by nose; it has a very powerful smell (or so some sources on the internet say). This too is found in
Cloves, Hop, Rosemary,
Black Pepper and
Hemp. Your Author, however, would have thought it to be fairly toxic with an epoxy group. It is, however, apparently well known as a preservative in food, drugs and cosmetics due to its strong anti-fungal properties. But this use is under scrutiny (2013) by the European Food Safety Authority due to its potentially hazardous chemical structure. It has, however, been found to exhibit no genotoxic effects and is devoid of mutagenic effects, so may pass muster for use in food.
At 25% occurrence in the essential oil
α-Bisabolene (aka cis-α-Bisabolene) is by far the most significant secondary metabolite within the plant. It is an unsaturated sesquiterpene hydrocarbon, which has two other isomers, β-Bisabolene and γ-Bisabolene, which have not been found within Greater Burnet-Saxifrage. These Bisabolenes are also found in the essential oil of a wide variety of other aromatic plants such as
Lemon and Oregano and in several fungi.
Various derivative compounds of Bisabolene serve as pheromones to differing insects such as Fruit Flies and stink Bugs.
Bisabolenes within plants are intermediates in the synthesis of the sesquiterpenoid
Hernandulcin, which was found in flowers of Lippia dulcis (aka Phyla dulcis) in 1985 and is over 1000 times sweeter than is
Hernandulcin has a minty aftertaste and does not cause tooth decay so should be a good candidate for use in toothpastes.
α-Curcumene should not be confused with the orange-yellow powder
Circumin which is used culinarily in curries and the like, and is the main component of
Curcumene is a sesquiterpenoid. it has a herb type of taste and is also found in Pepper,
Lovage, Wild Carrot and Rosemary. It has a stronger antibiotic activity against Saccharomyces cerevisae and less towards other microorganisms. It has at least two isomers: β-Curcumene and γ-Curcumene, which have the double bonds in differing positions within the same general shape.
When the two are compared closely from a skeletal point of view,
α-Curcumene have identical skeletal frameworks, it is just the number and placement of the double bonds which varies.
The presence of
PseudoIsoEugenol is chemosystematic indicator of the Genus Pimpinella, for they all are said to possess it, and is likely a contributor to the anti-microbial activity in this genus. Eugenol has no known presence in Pimpinella, but is shown for comparison only - two changes are apparent; the -OH moiety has moved as has the double-bond on the aliphatic
PhenylPropene side-chain. PseudoIsoEugenol is thus an isomer of Eugenol (which itself is toxic). Within pimpinella genera
PseudoIsoEugenol also occurs in the form of several differing esters of common acids, such as those of AngelicAcid, TiglicAcid,
2-MethylButanoic Acid and isoButyric Acid plus others. Or with the side-chain bearing an epoxide moiety and other changes.
Nonane is a fully saturated linear hydrocarbon with 9 carbon atoms that is a clear, odourless flammable liquid used in jet fuels and for tractors. It smells of petrol.
2,2-DiMethylPentanal is a flammable aldehyde based upon a methane skeleton.
Dictamnol is a
sesquiterpene with a fused 5+7 membered ring skeleton like that of Azulene but lacking most of the double bonds of Azulene, thus it does not behave like an aromatic compound. It is found in several Pimpinella species, including this one. It is also found in the plant
Dittany Dictamnus dasycarpus (a non-native plant belonging to the
Rue family which does not appear in the book commonly called 'Stace III') from which it got its name. [Dittony should not be confused with Dittander (Lepidium latifolium)].