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Common Names: Bugle, blue bugle, bugleherb, bugleweed, carpetweed, carpet bungleweed, common bugle
Habitat: Ajuga reptans is native to most of Europe, including Britain, to S.W. Asia and N. Africa. It grows in damp grassy fields and damp woods.
Ajuga reptans is an evergreen perennial, to be found in flower from the end of April to the beginning of July and well marked by its solitary, tapering flower-stalks, 6 to 9 inches high, and its creeping scions or runners. These are long shoots, sometimes a couple of feet or more long, sent out from the rootstock. At intervals upon them are pairs of leaves, and at the same point rootlets are given off below, which enter the earth. As winter approaches, the runners die, but at every point where the leaf-pairs and the rootlets were formed, there is a dormant plant waiting to develop fully in the spring, a Bugle plant thus being the centre of quite a colony of new young plants, quite independently of setting its seeds, which as a matter of fact do not always ripen, the plant propagating itself more largely by its creeping scions.
The erect flower-stalk sent up from the root-stock is square, pale green, often purplish above, with the leaves opposite in pairs, the lower leaves on stalks, the upper leaves stalkless, oblong and obtuse in form, toothed or almost entire at the margin, having manycelled hairs on both surfaces, the margins also fringed with hairs. The runners are altogether smooth, but the stems are smooth only on two sides and downy on the other two.
The flowers are of a purplish blue, crowded into a spike formed of about six or more rings of whorls, generally six flowers in a whorl. The upper leaves or bracts interspersed between the whorls are also tinged with the same colour, so that ordinarily the whole of the upper portion of the plant has a bluish appearance. A white variety is sometimes found, the upper leaves then being of the normal green colour.
The flowers are adapted by their lipped formation for cross-fertilization by bees, a little honey being found at the base of the long tube of the corolla. The upper lip is very short and the lower three-cleft. The stamens project. The flowers have practically no scent. After fertilization, small blackish seeds are formed, but many of the ovules do not mature.
The rather singular names of this plant – both popular and botanical – are not very easy to account for. It has been suggested that ‘Bugle’ is derived from bugulus, a thin, glass pipe used in embroidery, the long, thin tube of the corolla being thought to resemble this bead bugle. It is more likely to be a corruption of the Latin name Ajuga, the generic name which Linnaeus was the first to apply to this plant from a belief that this or some closely-allied species was the one referred to by Pliny and other writers by a very similar name, a name probably corrupted from Abija, in turn derived from the Latin word abigo, to drive away, because the plant was thought to drive away various forms of disease. In former days it was held to possess great curative powers. Prior, writing in the seventeenth century, tells us: ‘It is put in drinkes for woundes and that is the cause why some doe commonly say that he that hath Bugle and Sanicle will scarce vouchsafe the chirugeon a bugle.’ The early writers speak of the plant as the Abija, Ajuga, Abuga and Bugula, and the common English name, Bugle, is clearly a corruption of one or other of these forms.
Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Erosion control, Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen, Woodland garden. Prefers a humus-rich, moisture retentive soil and partial shade. Does well in marshy soil and in the spring meadow. Grows well in dry shade and is fairly drought tolerant once established, though it shows distress in severe drought. Plants do not always ripen their seeds in Britain, they spread freely by runners, however, and soon form an extensive patch in suitable conditions. A number of forms have been selected for their ornamental value, several of them are variegated and these are used especially as ground cover plants for dry shade. A purple-leafed form, ‘Atropurpurea’ does well in full sun so long as the soil is not dry. A good bee and butterfly plant. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Naturalizing.
Seed – sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 3 – 4 weeks at 10°c, though it can be erratic. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division of runners at almost any time of year. Very easy, the divisions can be planted straight out into their permanent positions if required.
Edible Uses: Leaves….…Young shoots – raw
Part Used Medicinally: The whole herb, gathered in May and early June, when the leaves are at their best, and dried.
Bitter, astringent and aromatic.
Ajuga reptans herb has been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea for treatment of disorders related with the respiratory tract.
In herbal treatment, an infusion of this plant is still considered very useful in arresting haemorrhages and is employed in coughs and spitting of blood in incipient consumption and also in some biliary disorders, a wineglassful of the infusion – made from 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water – being given frequently.
In its action, it rather resembles digitalis, lowering the pulse and lessening its frequency, it allays irritation and cough, and equalizes the circulation and has been termed ‘one of the mildest and best narcotics in the world.’ It has also been considered good for the bad effects of excessive drinking.
Green (Universal Herbal, 1832) gives as his opinion that ‘the leaves may be advantageously used in fluxes and disorders of that kind as they do not, like many other plants of the same value, produce costiveness, but rather operate as gentle laxatives.’
He states that a decoction of the herb has been employed for quinsy on the Continent, where the herb has been more employed as a remedy than in this country.
The roots have by some authorities been considered more astringent than the rest of the plant.
Ajuga reptans has a long history of use as a wound herb and, although little used today, it is still considered very useful in arresting hemorrhages and is also used in the treatment of coughs and spitting of blood in incipient consumption. It has mild analgesic properties and it is still used occasionally as a wound healer. It is used to treat bleeding from cuts and other wounds. The leaves are simmered to make an infusion. It is also mildly laxative and traditionally has been thought to help cleanse the liver. In the past it was recommended for coughs, ulcers, rheumatism, and to prevent hallucinations after excessive alcohol consumption. Externally used for bruises and tumors. It is thought to possess heart tonic properties. The plant is usually applied externally. It is also commonly used fresh in ointments and medicated oils.
Other Uses: A good ground-cover for a position in semi-shade, forming a carpet and rooting as it spreads. Fairly fast growing but it does not always smother out weeds and can become bare at the centre if not growing in good conditions.
Known Hazards: The plant is said to be a narctic hallucinogen that is known to have caused fatalities.
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