12 Prairial: Bétoine (betony, bishopwort, woundwort, Stachys officinalis)
It’s more of the mint family! I mention plant “families” fairly often in this blog, partly because some families are easily identified and once you get used to looking for their characteristics you begin to see them everywhere. The mint family, Lamiaceae, is one of these user-friendly groups. These plants tend to have distinctive flowers: small, growing in clusters, bilaterally symmetrical with petals fused into the appearance of an upper and lower “lip.” Most have squared stems—you can feel the shape when you roll them gently between your fingers—with the leaves growing opposite one another. And many produce a variety of aromatic compounds. We’ve already looked at this with lemon balm and wild thyme; betony is a relative lightweight in that department but that doesn’t stop it from showing up in herbals.
Confession: I’m not sure that the common name Woundwort is ever applied to Stachys officinalis in particular. But other Stachys spp. are called woundworts and that’s good enough for me to put in a nod towards the remarkable antagonist of Watership Down. General Woundwort gets a hell of a last line for a rabbit: “Come back, you fools! Dogs aren’t dangerous! Come back and fight!” Although no one sees him alive again after facing a hunting dog, one of his lieutenants points out no one sees his body either.