After moving to Whitchurch a few years ago I was thrilled to find a nature reserve on my doorstep, and one with such diverse plant life was the icing on the cake. As a herbalist I am constantly looking at plants, (even while stopped in traffic) and the reserve has so many rare and wonderful specimens.
Last year I saw Solanum dulcamara (Woody nightshade) for the first time in the reserve and also the first time anywhere. The particularly wet summer saw an increase of this poisonous plant.
This year the warmer weather has shown some more wonderful specimens, Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) which was rarely seen last year is now out in abundance. This wonderful herb was used as the base of aspirin along with willow bark, and is used today in modern herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis and rheumatism.
It’s not only the rare plants that interest me, the cleavers and plantain have all been prolific and all still hold an important place in treating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
A hugely under rated plant is the humble nettle, still used in herbal medicine today for its high mineral content and as an anti histamine, but it has so many other uses.
In the First World War nettles were used to make military uniforms, and they are also wonderful in soups and sauces (if picked early). In 1693 it was recorded that nettle was used to treat kidney stones, and today research shows that nettle has a diuretic effect.
If you are interested in learning more about the herbs in the reserve and their medicinal and historical uses, come along to the herb walk on 28th September, 2pm til 4pm.