Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis) Bishopswort Purple Betony Woundwort Heirloom Herb
Height 2 ft
Wood betony, is a hardy perennial herb, and is also known as Betony, Bishops Wort, Purple Betony, Woundwort and Lousewort. This is a wonderful plant for shady areas - it will happily grow under deciduous trees, around tree lines and north sides of buildings however it does require some light, and it will also not grow under coniferous trees.
In early spring it produces a rosette of mid green leaves which are shaped like elongated hearts measuring up to 7 inches long and have long thin stiff stalks. The leaves are deeply veined, strongly textured (with scalloped edges), and are covered with fine hairs. In mid to late spring strong stiff square stems (think mint) arise from the center of the leaf cluster to the height of about 24 to 20 in. At wide intervals, stems bear a pair of leaves smaller but identical to those in the basal cluster. A spike of purple flowers sits at the top of the stems and are arranged in dense rings or whorls blooms from late spring to early summer, and last about two months. Each flower is a tube ending in two lips; the upper lip is slightly arched - the lower lip is flat with 3 lobes having 4 stamens close to the tube opening, and arches up to the upper lip.
Medical uses of Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis). Wood Betony was once one of the most revered of herbal medicines and was widely used for a large number of complaints. Today it is typically used in combination with other herbs; the leaves are used as a tincture to treat migraine headaches, chronic and acute pain mostly in combination with other nervines. It is also used to stimulate the digestive system, liver and, as an overall tonic for the body. It is also used for 'frayed nerves', pre-menstrual complaints, poor memory and tension, sore throats caused by allergies or colds, heartburn, and inflammation due to infections of the urinary tract. Caution: powdered leaves if inhaled will cause violent sneezing and it has been used as part of a herbal snuff mixture in the treatment of headaches. Can be used as a substitute for black tea, infusion resembles taste and is caffeine free.
- Light shade
- Well draining soil
- Note: Seeds need a period of cold before they will germinate.
- Direct sow seeds on the ground in fall or early spring, however since germination is erratic this is not the preferred method.
- OR Recommended: start seeds indoors in mid to later winter. Require light to germinate - sow on the surface of the soil or at most very lightly cover them. Keep seed trays modestly warm but not hot. Do not use bottom heat, this plant prefers cool temperatures. Germination can be erratic so sow in small pots or individual cell trays for best results.
- Transplant seedlings as they grow large enough to handle. Grow on in small pots until large enough to harden off outside. Plants grow slowly for the first year and take some time to establish so it may be late summer or early fall of first year before they are large enough to set out.
- Plant out at about 12 in. intervals and keep watered while plants establish themselves. Will flower in second year from seed. Planting at 12 in. intervals will produce a good total ground cover in about 2 years.
- Weeding is necessary until plants are established and any persistent perennials will need to be removed. Some water is recommended even in areas with high rain since most will not reach the plants under trees.
- Harvesting: do not attempt to harvest the first year; leaves can be harvested from early flower bloom until the flowers are almost finished. Flower stalks should be harvested when about half of the flowers are in bloom. Leave one third of the leaves and some flowers to enable the plant to replenish itself for the next growing season. Flowers are followed by small brown seeds that fall from the spike when ripe; harvest the seeds beforehand when blooms fade. Hang the stalks upside down, shake the stalks over a brown paper bag and save for next season or direct sow.
- Seed Count: 25