Birthwort, a plant with a fascinating history 24 May 2021

After a little detective work I located a possible site for the rare Birthwort today. The most up to date info I had was that it was present here in 2004 so it was a little bit of a long shot. But having seen Breckland Birthwort yesterday it was worth a punt to get them both in consecutive days. The site is only a 15 minute drive from home and upon arrival I was amazed to find it growing in profusion! The plant has a very interesting history of medicinal use. In the Middle Ages and later it was used to aid childbirth but also as an aid to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. Nuns typically acted as midwives back then so it was often planted in convent gardens. Rumour has it that it was also used to bring on abortion in wayward nuns who had dallied with equally wayward monks! Today it is known from only 15 UK sites as a relic of those days. 

Interestingly the Breckland Birthwort site is close to the ancient Icknield Way so may have links to trade as the plant was 'imported' from Europe.


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