LIQUORICE

Glycyrrhiza glabra

Pea Family [Fabaceae]

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZalien
 
flower
flower8purple
 
flower
flower8blue
 
inner
inner8white
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
stem
stem8round
 
stem
stem8fluted
partly
toxicity
toxicityZlowish
 
sex
sexZbisexual
 

8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The paler-green shurubs under a metre high are the liquorice plants, here amidst grasses, Mugwort and other 'weeds' of an arable field.

Liquorice used to be grown here for so-called 'Pontefract Cakes' which were small, black, flattish discs of liquorice about the size of a 2p coin. It was also extruded into short straws for sucking up white sherbet powder through from what looked like a short stick of dynamite. And of course, made into multicoloured liquorice flattish cubes by another manufacturer. A much harder form of liquorice was also made into what looked like short sticks of black rock, which contained much more liquorice.



8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Growing between the now brown Common Sorrel the liquorice shrubs are easily delimeated.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
A liquorice plant sandwiched between Common Sorrel. The leaves are pinnate with about 5 pairs of leaflets plus a terminal one at the end.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The flowers were very few; your Author found only 3 or 4 flowering spikes from about 2 dozen plants.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The flower spikes are mainly horizontal, at the ends of a long mainly-leafless stem


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
There may be the odd small leaf near a flowering spike. The flowering spike here contains approximately 16 or more purple-tipped flowers, here not yet partially opened. The leaves are on short stalks.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Flower spike shown upright so that your Author can show more of it. Each flower emerges from the tip of a long, toothed to half-way, sepal tube, which has a (here brownish) ligule near the base.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The sepal tube is hairy with short hairs. The as-yet unopened petals just protruding slightly.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Some hairs have small spherical globules on the end. They didn't appear to be sticky hairs. Just one sepal tooth is slightly longer than all others, and just one seems slightly shorter.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Opened flowers. The Liquorice plant is a legume, pea-family, with a longish banner only slightly longer than the two opposite wings which have two shorter keels within, 5 petals in all; all purple near the end but white lower down. There might be some Liquorice plants in other places with blue-tipped petals, but not here.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
On this photo your Author can count 20 flowers, but there may be more hiding behind others.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
An end-on view showing the radial arrangement of the sepal tubes. Although the banners (seen here as the top-most petal) of most Fabaceae plants are the longest petals, it seems that in the case of Liquorice flowers, the wings protrude the most, and even the normally shy and hidden keels are also longer than the banners (see flower pointing North-West).


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
But it is all a matter of viewing angle: the banners curl upwards and are indeed longer than either the wings or the keel. The flower at the top just left of centre shows best these features.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The sexual organs, normally hidden within the almost closed keels of most other legumes, are plainly visible here: a longer style with yellowish discoidal stigma plus 5(?) shorter, white filaments (which seem to be without anthers?)


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Banner, 2 wings (one withering) and 2 well-separated keels.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The pinnate leaves; newer ones yet to grow are shorter with smaller leaflets at this moment in time. A single flowering spike bottom, centre.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Leaves oval with slight variations.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Growing leaves and established leaves. Inflorescent spike at bottom.


8th Aug 2019, Copleys Farm, near Pontefract, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Underside of leaflets with ~six prominent, curved veins. Leaflets have no teeth. Stems, stalks and leaves with very short hairs.


Easily confused with : Wild Liquorice (Astragalus glycyphyllos) [a plant with similar name belonging to a differing genus]

Not to be semantically confused with : Russian Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza echinata) [a plant with similar name, and which, unlike the above mentioned Liquorice, is in the same genus].

Both of the above probably taste of or similar to liquorice.

This Liquorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra, is the real McCoy, but is not native to the UK. Nor does it grow wild in the UK (according to BSBI maps), although in this field it does seem to be surviving, and possibly spreading (?). It does not seem to be grown commercially on this farm any longer, although it used to be, but rather is now grown commercially on another nearby farm.

Liquorice was first sold in shops in the UK as 'twigs' to chew on. The fibres released the liquorice-tasting compound(s?) when chewed. It was not usual for the fibres to be eaten, they were rather tough. The 'twigs' were not twigs are such, but rather the roots of the plant, growing underground. And from these roots the liquorice is extracted as a raw ingredient. One source claims that the compound most responsible for the flavour (and sweetness) of liquorice is Enoxolone, a pentacyclic triterpenoid derivative of β-Amyrin, which is obtained by hydrolysing Glycyrrhizin (aka Glycyrrhizic Acid aka Glycyrrhetic Acid). Another source claims that it is Glycyrrhizin itself, found in the roots of the Liquorice plant, which is the compound responsible for most of the flavour and sweetness of Liquorice.

Glycyrrhizin tastes very sweet, being between 30 to 50 times sweeter than Sucrose (sugar), although that is by no means the sweetest substance; that accolade is awarded to Lugduname, a synthetic Guanidine compound whose estimated sweetness is 225,000 fold higher than sucrose.

The smell of liquorice is due to various other substances in Liquorice, such as Anethole which constitutes about 3% of the volatile components in Liquorice.

INTERESTING COMPOUNDS IN LIQUORICE PLANTS


Liquiritigenin is a flavanone and chromenone which is found in both the Liquorice plant and in a relative of that called Glycyrrhiza uralensis. It is an oestrogenic compound inhibiting the main female hormone in certain ways.

IsoLiquiritigenin (aka 6'-deoxyChalcone) and has a broken central ring. It has a tranquilising effect on the human body that is 65 times stronger effect than diazepam targetting the GABA-A benzodiapine receptor. It also shows potential on inhibiting the growth of malenoma skin cancers but has not yet been tried on humans.




Glabrene is an isoFlavonoid which has two chromen units joined asymmetrically. One is a chromenol unit, the other a chromenyn. It is phyto-oestrogen found in Liquorice plants and it too exhibits oestrogenic activity effects on breast, veins and bones. Both Liquiritigenin and Glabrene are Tyrosinase inhibitors fond in the roots of the Liquorice plant.

Glabridin is an isoFlavane type of isoFlavonoid which is also found in the roots of Liquorice plants. It has a wide range of effects on the human body: it is an anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, anti-osteoporotic, neuroprotective, anti-tumorigenic, anti-nephritic, ant--bacterial and oestrogenic effects.




The compound most responsible for the flavour (and sweetness) of liquorice is Enoxolone, a pentacyclic triterpenoid derivative of β-Amyrin, which is obtained by hydrolysing Glycyrrhizin (aka Glycyrrhizic Acid / Glycyrrhetic Acid). Glycyrrhizin, a saponin containing two additional sugar moieties, is found in the roots of the Liquorice plant.

Consuming Glycyrrhizin results in a reduction in blood potassium levels and a rise in blood pressure, which may result in adverse effects on the heart, such as an irregular heart beat as well as adverse interactions with some medicines the person may be taking. People with certain medical conditions should not consume much (if any) Liquorice. Certain sensitive individuals may experience problems after consuming 50g of liquorice sweets, but most people can consume 200g of liquorice sweets before experiencing symptoms. Side effects of ingestion include oedema, lethargy, muscle weakness, headache, temporary visual loss, increased body mass, acute kidney failure, tachycardia, paralysis and cardiac arrest! Other symptoms seem to be sex dependant: premature birth (which is also presumably dependant upon the person also being heavily pregnant) and reduced testosterone.


  Glycyrrhiza glabra  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Fabaceae  

Distribution
 family8Pea family8Fabaceae
 BSBI maps
genus8Glycyrrhiza
Glycyrrhiza
(Liquorice)

LIQUORICE

Glycyrrhiza glabra

Pea Family [Fabaceae]