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Teucrium scorodonia

Mint / Dead-Nettle Family [Lamiaceae]  

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6th July 2007, Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Growing amongst abandoned slate

9th July 2008, Limestone Clints & Grykes, Gait Barrows, Silverdale. Photo: © RWD
Growing in a limestone gryke.

18th June 2018, near the shoreline, Colwyn Bay, N. Wales. Photo: © RWD
Latent flowers in a short spike at the top still developing .

31st July 2007, Limestone Rocks, Gait Barrows, Silverdale. Photo: © RWD
Growing from a limestone nook and cranny.

8th June 2007, Sticks Pass, Greenside Mines, Glenridding, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are hairy on the underside and heavily crinkled.

8th June 2007, Sticks Pass, Greenside Mines, Glenridding, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The stem is purplish-brown when slightly older, square and with short stubby downwardly-directed hairs. The flowers not yet open, still within the pale-green unopened sepals, but some are starting to emerge (bottom left). The sepals are also short-haired as are young leaves which are in opposite pairs just beneath oppositely-pairs flowers.

3rd July 2010, Gait Barrows, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Although the flowers are oppositely-paired on the square stem, alternately on the other sides of the square stem, they all curve around on their short stalks to face the same direction, in pairs, such that all are facing south (in the UK, in the direction the midday sun is located). The four woody and purple stamens are sometimes curved slightly downwards or strongly re-curved up and over. Prominent cream-coloured stigma with pale-green forked tip.

3rd July 2010, Gait Barrows, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are in pairs, two-abreast up the stem, as are two small leaflets at the base of the flower stalks. Each flower has a large re-curved lower lip. Four purple-stalked stamens tipped with brown anthers emerge from a cream-coloured tube, surrounded by light-green sepals.

31st July 2007, Limestone Rocks, Gait Barrows, Silverdale. Photo: © RWD
The spent flowers petals having dropped off to leave just the 5-toothed sepal tubes, the single upper tooth longer and wider than the others, the lower two narrower than the others. Lurking deep within the sepal tubes are dark-brown developing fruit/seeds.

Photo: © Ann Collier
The flowers vaguely look like they belong to one of the orchid families with their large lower lobe, but they belong to the dead-nettle Family Lamiaceae.

Photo: © Ann Collier
The lowest lobe is almost circuler like a (shallow) sugar-spoon with two tentative nicks near the bottom. there are two curved, short arm-like lobes on the 'shaft' of the spoon, and a further two just above those with similar size and curved shape but with their 'arms' raised. Together, the 4 arms look like they could hold onto a pencil. The petals, 5-lobed as just described, are at the top of a cream-coloured hairy tube (see left-most flower) which towers above and emerges from the 5-toothed pale-green sepal-tube. Emerging out of the tube so described are four dark-brown filaments with orange-brown anthers; the two stamens at the rear being slightly longer than the two in front. The pale-green style with forked-tongue lurks amongst the stamens (best seen in the lowest flower slightly on the left).
All these components of the flower are hairy except for the stigma.

15th Aug 2016, Llandudno, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
The flowers have all gone or their remants brown and withered leaving behing sepal tubes with either green or brown fruits within.

15th Aug 2016, Llandudno, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
Four small spherical green and unripe seeds in a hooded sepal tube.

15th Aug 2016, Llandudno, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
The four fruits now brown are nearly ripe. Their are whitish hairs within the green sepal tube.

20th June 2008, Peel Castle, Isle of Man. Photo: © RWD
Young plants, deeply net-veined leaves.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics: there is no other plant quite like this.

Distinguishing Feature : the long protruding purple-brown stamens sticking out from pale creamy longish flowers. Leaves deeply net-grooved like miniature grykes. Smells nice when crushed.

Wood Sage both smells and tastes similar to Hops (amongst many other oils it contains one of the ingredients of hops, namely humulene epoxide) and is thus sometimes used to give beer a bitter taste as well as to clarify the beer (make the yeast sink). Thus used, it endows the beer with a rich hue.

The text books say Wood Sage prefers acid soils but many of the above examples are growing on limestone areas. Also grows on dunes, screes and dry heath. It is a woody undershrub. The flowers are pale yellowish creamy green, the stem square (with perhaps some round sections) and very hairy (with short downwardly-directed hairs), the leaves are light green and very deeply-net-veined, hairy underneath.


Wood Sage contains the mono-cyclic sesquiterpene, Humulene Epoxide, a derivative of Humulene, which also has an 11-membered carbon ring. Humulene is one of the aromatic components of Hops which contributes to the flavour of beer. Humulene occurs not only in Hops (Humulus lupus) but also in the only other relative of Hops - Hemp (Cannabis sativa).

In Spain it has also been found to contain Germacrene B (at 25%), α-Humulene (8%), α-Cubebene (8%) and Germacrene D (6%).


Wood Sage is commonly used in alcoholic beverages such as Vermouth and tonics, for it has an extremely bitter taste, due mostly to the compound Teucrin A which it contains. The maximum permissible amount of Teucrin A in any drink has now been increased from 2 to 5mg/kg at the bequest of the Italian Government, whose local drinks would have otherwise fallen foul of recent European Legislation on the maximum permissible amount.

Like Teucrine above, Teucrine A is another toxic furano neoclerodene diterpenoid which is contained not only in Wood Sage but also other flowers belonging to the Teucrium Genus, such as Germander and Feverfew. It is hepatotoxic, damaging the liver. Notice the similarity to Humulene above; apart from the two extra spiro furano rings, just an extra carbon atom is at the centre of the large ring of humulene.

Other similar diterpenoids found within Teucrium species are Teucrium G, Teucrin H1, Dihydrotengin, IsoTeulhidin, Teuevidin, Teucrolivin A, and Teucrolivin B.


Plants of Genus Teucrium, which includes Wood Sage and Wall Germander, contain the hepatotoxic furano neo-clerodane diterpenoids (although Teucrine itself is not a furano compound).

  Teucrium scorodonia  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Lamiaceae  

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Teucrium scorodonia

Mint / Dead-Nettle Family [Lamiaceae]  

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