Not to be semantically confused with : Fig (Ficus carica), Hottentot-Fig (Carpobrotus edulis),
Angular Sea-Fig (Carpobrotus glaucescens) or Fig-Leaved Goosefoot (Chenopodium ficifolium [plants with similar names belonging to differing families].
Water Figwort grows mainly in the UK south of the border with Scotland, but also avoiding much of Wales apart from South Wales, and less common in Lancashire and seemingly avoiding much of Cumbria. Present also In Ireland but mostly in the west and south. It is about half as common as Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa) (which grows over almost all of the UK apart from the North and North-East of Scotland).
Easily mistaken for :
Green Figwort (Scrophularia umbrosa) - see below for differences
Not related to: Cape Figwort (Phygelius capensis).
Water Figwort is distinguished from Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa) by the following features:
- The leaves have crenate (rounded) teeth or blunt sawtooth teeth (as opposed to serrate (pointed and forwardly-directed sawtooth teeth for Common Figwort)
- The leaved have winged petioles (stalks) - (unwinged on Common Figwort)
- The leaves often (but not always) have an opposite pair of smaller leaves near the base of the main leaf - (leaflets always absent on Common Figwort)
- The leaf stalks are winged - (un-winged on Common Figwort)
- Sepals are rounded with a pale 0.5-1mm border - (oval, blunt and all-green on Common Figwort)
- The infertile staminode is rounded at the apex - (it can be obovate, truncate or notched in the centre on Common Figwort)
- The square stems have pronounced wings along each corner - (only very slightly winged on Common Figwort)
- It smells only slightly foetid - (whereas Common Figwort smells foetid)
But Water Figwort is much more like the far less common
Green Figwort (Scrophularia umbrosa) but Green Figwort differs from Water Figwort by the following features:
- The flower spike possesses numerous small leafy bracts beneath the branches.
- The stems have broader wings, especially nearer the bottom.
- The leaves have more teeth and the teeth are smaller.
- The leaf teeth are slightly pointed, never crenate.
- The staminode (the sterile 'anther' nestling just beneath the top petals) is wider than it is long with two lobes. It varies in shape, some being obovate, others truncate ('snipped' short at the front) or emarginate (with a notch in the centre at the front).
- Although the petioles (stalks) of the leaves are all winged (just as those of Water Figwort are) they do not possess a smaller and opposite pair of leaflets.
The colour code for the coloured moieties on this page are:
Blue for glycoside moieties
Red for PhenylPropanoids groups
Green for the Iridoid skeleton
Purple for the Saponin moiety.
All these compounds contribute to the toxicity of Water Figwort, and uses may be found for some of them in medicine.
A PHENYL PROPANOID
Varbascoside is a
TWO IRIDOID GLYCOSIDES
ScroPolioside is an
Iridoid Glycoside exhibiting wound-healing powers, anti-inflammatory activity and is also hepatoprotective. The only difference between ScroPolioside and ScroValentinoside is that the red-colured PhenylPropanoid moiety has swapped places with an Acetoxy moiety.
ScroValentinoside is a newly discovered Iridoid Glycoside.
TWO TRIETERPENOID SAPONINS
Verbascosaponin is an
Triterpenoid Saponin. Readers might spot the three differences between these two saponins: the addition of an -O- bond, the consequent moving of a double bond and the breaking of one upright of the bridge (shown in bold): all on the Saponin (purple part) of the molecule.
VerbascoSaponin A is another oleane-type triterpenoid saponin, this one is also found in Great Mullein.