Prunella vulgaris

Mint / Dead-Nettle Family [Lamiaceae]  

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5th July 2002, Eskdale Valley, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Often quite a low plant in grass or on the lower slopes of mountains.

21st June 2007, Roman Fort, Castlefield, Manchester. Photo: © RWD
Possibly a garden variety of Selfheal, if there is one other than Large-flowered Selfheal.

9th July 2005, Hope, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD

23rd July 2005, Nelson, Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Photo: © RWD
But can become vigorous when undisturbed, reaching up to 50cm.

15th July 2005, Carnforth, Lancs. Photo: © RWD

28th June 2011, Ainsdale dunes, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Hairy pointed oval leaves in opposite pairs on a ribbed square stem. The flower stalk is similar, but is thinned than the main stalk from which it appears to telescope out of. Lanceolate leaves in opposite pairs.

Photo: © RWD
A striking radial arrangement of blue-purple flowers from above.

3rd July 2015, ex alkali works, Nob End, Bolton, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
A vacated calyx right in the centre is where once a flower resided. The calyx is 2-lobed, the upper lip is longer than the lower and is more or less level at the top with 3 very short teeth, the lower half lip has 2 long teeth. The calyx is edged in a reddish-brown but will eventually all turn a beetroot-red after the flowers have vacated. Each flower is also in the axil of a strongly-modified, almost rectangular, bract.

3rd July 2015, ex alkali works, Nob End, Bolton, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Tucked right under the flower cowl are two stamens with first blue turning violet x-shaped anthers on long filaments.

28th June 2011, Ainsdale dunes, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Sepal teeth beetroot purple and highly pointed. Lower lip of flower has two smaller side-lobes. The upper cowl houses the male organs.

26th September 2008, Greenside Mine, Glenridding, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
After the deep-purple florets have died and fallen out, this is the faded remains. It looks like a different flower!

26th September 2008, Greenside Mine, Glenridding, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
The faded remains. The leaves are fading.

26th September 2008, Greenside Mine, Glenridding, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
The faded remains: 2 + 2 broad-lanceolate bracts plus 6 + 6-recurring tapering-rectangular bracts. These bracts are greatly modified bracts. The bracts are stacked one type (rectangular) above the toothed calyx beneath. All flowers having vacated making the stacked bracts more obvious.

30th June 2016, railway sidings, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
A beetroot-red stressed-out specimen defending itself against the sun and probable lack of water - and who would blame it struggling to eke an existence on limestone rocks and what looks either like coal or solid bitumen!

30th June 2016, railway sidings, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The slightly blurry specimen one floret up from the bottom appears to have lost the topmost paired bracts, revealing the sextuplet bracts beneath.

30th June 2016, railway sidings, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
Some of the reddened leaves here are turning brown through stress.


21st June 2007, Manchester Photo: © RWD
Has square stems which are also ribbed in two opposing pairs (here brown, the second pair on the far side of the stem). Hairy stems, leaves, flower bracts and flowers. Prunellas' Scales (aka bracts) in side-view :-)
The paired opposite leaves. From the centre of this has a very short round thing with a large cup-shaped sepal cup with 4 shallow, symmetrically-arranged rectangular notches from which arises the alternately stacked column of 6 sepal-cups, 6 bracts and 6 flowers (many of which have vacated).

Because this specimen does indeed have a short gap between the highest leaf pair and the base of the flower head then this will be the larger garden variety.

Can be mistaken for : the garden variety called Large-flowered Selfheal (Prunella grandiflora) but that has larger flowers and can easily be distinguished from Selfheal by the noticeable gap between the uppermost leaf-pair and the base of the flower-head (Selfheal has no gap between the base of the flower-head and the top-most leaf pair). Thus, none of the above specimens are Large-flowered Selfheal, despite some of them having quite long flowering heads; the topmost leaf-pair is always just under the flowerhead (and the flowers are not large). The corolla, at maybe 20-30mm across and extending well beyond the radius encompassing the calyxes, is larger than that of the 10-15mm of Selfheal. Large-flowered Selfheal is introduced and naturalised, but only occurs as a short term relic. It inhabits banks or grassy places.

Hybridizes with : Cut-leaved Selfheal (Prunella luciniata) to produce Prunella intermedia which differs in having toothed leaves and creamy-white flowers. At the very least, the uppermost leaf-pairs of Cut-leaved Selfheal are deeply divided to about the mid-rib, the corolla is, at 15-17mm across, slightly larger than the 10-15mm of Selfheal and the flowers are creamy-white or white (only rarely pale-blue).

Some similarities to : Wild Thyme (when flower heads viewed hastily from above) but wild thyme has flowers that are much more mauve than the dark-blue of Selfheal.

Beware of several garden varieties, but these generally have larger flowers up to about twice the size.

It grows in grassy places such as lawns and woods, but also on the lower slopes of mountains.

Selfheal has been shown to have a variety of pharmacological effects including anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-oxidative, anti-microbial, anti-mutagenic and cytotoxic and has long been employed in traditional medicine.

Prunellin is a possibly unique, water-soluble anionic polysaccharide found in Selfheal with a molecular weight of over 10 kilo Daltons, and therefore it is not possible to show the chemical structure on these pages. It obtains its name from Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) and exhibits anti-viral properties and also prevents the replication of HIV-1.

Selfheal also contains Rosemarinic Acid, a polyphenolic ester of Caffeic Acid and 3,4-diHydroxyphenol lactic acid. It inhibits several biological pathways including Interleukin 2, Leukotriene B4 biosynthesis, and some protein kinases. It is also an anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory, substances found not only in Selfheal, but in many other members of the Dead-Nettle [Mint] Family including Rosemary, Oregano, Sage, Thyme and Peppermint and others besides.

  Prunella vulgaris  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Lamiaceae  

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Prunella vulgaris

Mint / Dead-Nettle Family [Lamiaceae]  

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