Lunaria annua

Cabbage Family [Brassicaceae]  

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4th May 2015, Rochdale Canal, SmithyBridge, Lancs. Photo: © RWD

18th April 2015, Bridgewater Canal, Stretford, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
An albino version, which are quite common, echoing the location of the normal one above: in a hedge, with partial sun.

22nd April 2005, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Shipley. Photo: © RWD
In a hedge-bank.

15th May 2004, Near Mow Cop, Cheshire Plain. Photo: © RWD
Both violet and white varieties exist.

1st June 2006, Walkden, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
When growing alone, the plant takes on a pyramidal form with side-branches all the way up the stem. Grows up to a metre high.

22nd April 2005, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Shipley. Photo: © RWD
Four propeller-shaped petals, usually violet, with a diminutive greenish centre.

22nd April 2005, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Shipley. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are more ace-of-spades shaped tapering in a concave manner to a blunt point. They are well, but bluntly, toothed.

11th May 2008, Peak Forest Canal, Strines, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The flower. Note indigo veins in petals.

19th May 2011, Walkden Golf Course, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The stem is glaucous green as are the seed pods. The flowers have two long sepals. The seed pods grow from small flattened beginnings on somewhat over-large pedestals at the end of long straight hairy stalks.

19th May 2011, Walkden Golf Course, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The very flat oval seed pods fully grown, but not yet 'brown-paper' ripe. Note the long projection at the top of the seed pod.

9th July 2005, Worksop, Nottinghamshire. Photo: © RWD
The seed pods are numerous and flat, with a few flattened seeds within. In a better state, the ripe seed pods are used as internal dried-flower flower decorations.

21st Sept 2008, Walkden, Greater Manchester. Photo: © RWD
The flat seed pods have dried to a shiny silvery and papery finish. The seeds still within.

Easily confused with : Dame's-Violet but Honesty never has lilac coloured flowers as does Dame's-Violet. Honesty also has heart-shaped (cordate) leaves on the upper stem (but more rounded to ovate lower down the stem) that are also well-toothed whereas Dame's-Violet has lanceolate un-toothed leaves. Honesty has flat coin-shaped seed pods that turn silvery when ripe, whereas Dame's-Violet has long thin cylindrical seed pods typical of mustards.

Distinguishing Feature : the flat and papery-thin seed pods which are shiny and silvery in Summer.

Some similarities to: Perennial Honesty (Lunaria rediviva) from Europe escapes from gardens but that has ice-blue flowers and long, narrow elliptical fruits. This grows year in year out by means of underground runners, something which Honesty lacks. Perennial Honesty also has very elongated flat seed pods rather than the almost disc shaped of Honesty. Despite the binomial name of Honesty incorporating 'annua' Honesty is usually a biennial, or only occasionally annual but rarely perennially. Honesty is species which is most commonly grown in gardens and which is the more likely to escape, rather than Perennial Honesty.

The flowers are four-petalled and, on separate plants, are either purple or white, never lilac. They are a favourite cottage-garden wild flower. You are much more likely to find this plant either in a garden itself, or nearby houses than growing in the wild.

The rounded thin coin-shaped seed pods, when ripe in summer, turn from green to shiny silver. These are used as decoration in indoor dry-flower arrangements.


Lunarine is an alkaloid based upon a benzofuran (the three fused lower rings) and Spermidine. The Spermidine forms part of a large 20-membered ring straddling part of the benzofuran. Note that Spermidine is not symmetrical, but has four carbon atoms one side of the 'central' nitrogen atom, and only three on the other side of it. Which brings us to Lunaridine, where the molecule of Spermidine is attached the other way around (4-3 instead of 3-4), which would make no difference if Spermidine were symmetrical. This form of juxtaposition is unusual from a plant synthesis perspective. It shows, in this instance, that it can get hold of either end of the stick.

Spermidine itself is shown for comparison, although it seems to be ubiquitous throughout many Genera and must also be present in Honesty. Note that it is asymmetrical, with four carbon atoms on one side and only three on the other.

LBX is identical to Lunarine apart from a CH2 bridge spanning the two nearer nitrogen atoms, thus making a six-membered ring with two nitrogen atoms in it at the meta positions (being pyrimidine, compare with the two isomers pyrazine where the nitrogen atoms are at the para position and with pyridazine with the nitrogen atoms at the ortho position.

LBY is identical to LBX apart from the ketone part of the benzofuran rings being replaced by ⋅H⋅OH.

Initially there was considerable confusion caused by the unusual multi-membered rings of the Lunaria alkakoids, confusion which may persist to the present day. Rumours of further alkaloids within Honesty such as Lunariamine and Numismine cannot be substantiated by any readily-found structural formulae. Although the reports are ubiquitous, no structural formulae are to be found, only empirical formulae.

  Lunaria annua  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Brassicaceae  

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Lunaria annua

Cabbage Family [Brassicaceae]  

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