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Synonyms: Lythrum. Purple Willow Herb. Spiked Loosestrife. Salicaire. Braune or Rother Weiderich. Partyke. Lysimaque rouge. Flowering Sally. Blooming Sally.
Habitat: Lythrurn salicaria is native to Europe, including Britain. Russian and Central Asia. Australia. North America.
Other names: Spiked loosestrife, or purple lythrum.
Lythrum salicaria is a herbaceous perennial plant, that can grow 1–1.5 m tall, forming clonal colonies 1.5 m or more in width with numerous erect stems growing from a single woody root mass. The stems are reddish-purple or red to purple and square in cross-section. The leaves are lanceolate, 3–10 cm long and 5–15 mm broad, downy and sessile, and arranged opposite or in whorls of three.
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The flowers are reddish purple, 10–20 mm diameter, with six petals (occasionally five) and 12 stamens, and are clustered tightly in the axils of bracts or leaves; there are three different flower types, with the stamens and style of different lengths, short, medium or long; each flower type can only be pollinated by one of the other types, not the same type, thus ensuring cross-pollination between different plants.
The fruit is a small 3–4 mm capsule containing numerous minute seeds. Flowering lasts throughout the summer. When the seeds are mature, the leaves often turn bright red through dehydration in early autumn; the red colour may last for almost two weeks. The dead stalks from previous growing seasons are brown.
Lythrurn salicaria is very variable in leaf shape and degree of hairiness, and a number of subspecies and varieties have been described, but it is now generally regarded as monotypic with none of these variants being considered of botanical significance.
Parts Used: Herb, root
Constituents: Mucilage and an astringent principle, but it has not been analysed.
Although scarcely used at present, Loosestrife has been highly esteemed by many herbalists. It is well established in chronic diarrhoea and dysentery, and is used in leucorrhoea and blood-spitting. In Switzerland the decoction was used successfully in an epidemic of dysentery. It has also been employed in fevers, liver diseases, constipation and cholera infantum, and for outward application to wounds and sores.
It has been stated to be superior to Eyebright for preserving the sight and curing sore eyes, the distilled water being applied for hurts and blows on the eyes and even in blindness if the crystalline humour is not destroyed.
An ointment may be made with the water 1 OZ. to 2 drachms of May butter without salt, and the same quantity of sugar and wax boiled gently together. It cleanses and heals ulcers and sores, if washed with the water, or covered with the leaves, green or dry according to the season.
A warm gargle and drink cures quinsy or a scrofulous throat.
Biological control: Purple loosestrife provides a model of successful biological pest control. Research began in 1985 and today the plant is managed well with a number of insects that feed on it. Five species of beetle use purple loosestrife as their natural food source and they can do significant damage to the plant. The beetles used as biological control agents include two species of leaf beetle: Galerucella calmariensis and Galerucella pusilla, and three species of weevil: Hylobius transversovittatus, Nanophyes breves, and Nanophyes marmoratus. Infestations of either of the Galerucella species is extremely effective in wiping out a stand of purple loosestrife, defoliating up to 100% of the plants in an area. The moth Ectropis crepuscularia is a pest species itself and unsuitable for biological contro.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.