What is a figwort? Perennials native to North America, Europe, and Asia, figwort herb plants (Scrophularia nodosa) tend not to be showy, and are thus uncommon in the average garden. They nevertheless make wonderful candidates since they are quite easy to grow. Figwort plant uses for healing are many, one of the reasons why gardeners may choose to grow them.
Figwort herb plants are related to the mullein plant from the family Scrophulariaceae, and some of their growing patterns and appearances are reminiscent of one another. Growing in similar fashion to mint, figworts reach heights of around 3 feet (1 m.), with tops that bloom in summer. Some plants, in the right situations, can grow to heights of around 10 feet (3 m.). Flowers are inconspicuous yet unique, with round shapes and red-yellow colors.
Figwort blooms attract wasps, which may be beneficial to your garden and its wildlife. The leaves, tubers, and flowers of the plant exude an unpleasant smell that may be responsible for attracting these wasps, while making it unpalatable to humans and animals. Still, the root is considered edible despite its repelling taste, having once been used as a food for famine in ancient times.
The methods for growing figworts are easy. They can be grown from seed under protection in early spring or autumn, then transplanted out into the garden or containers when large enough to be easily handled once temperatures warm. You can also propagate figworts by means of root division, moving these divisions to outdoor permanent locations, again once temperatures are warm and plants are officially established.
These plants enjoy both full sun and partially shady spots, and are not too picky about where they are placed. If you have a damp spot in your garden however, these plants might be the perfect fit. Figwort herb plants are known for loving damp, soggy areas, such as on riverbanks or in ditches. They can be also be found in the wild growing in woodlands and moist forest areas.
The uses of this plant stem mostly from the folk healing world. Owing to its species name and family name, the herb was often used for cases of “scrofula,” an old term for lymphatic infections connected to tuberculosis. More generally, the herb was used as a cleansing agent to remove impurities, stagnant infections, and to clean the lymph nodes and systems.
Figwort was also topically used for more simple and common maladies like burns, wounds, swellings, abscesses, sores, and sprains. To this end, figwort herb plants were made into herbal teas and ointments for topical and internal healing purposes. Modern herbalists today employ the plant for these same topical issues, and have been known to use it for thyroid problems.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.
Variegated Figwort foliage
Variegated Figwort foliage
An attractive variety with bold green and creamy white variegated leaves evergreen in milder areas grown for foliage, flowers are insignificant perfect for the edge of a stream or pond, keep well watered in the garden or containers
Variegated Figwort's attractive serrated pointy leaves remain green in colour with showy creamy white variegation and tinges of white throughout the season. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.
Variegated Figwort is an herbaceous perennial with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.
This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and should be cut back in late fall in preparation for winter. It has no significant negative characteristics.
Variegated Figwort is recommended for the following landscape applications
Variegated Figwort will grow to be about 18 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 24 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 18 inches apart. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 15 years.
This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers to grow in moist to wet soil, and will even tolerate some standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America. It can be propagated by division however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.
Variegated Figwort is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It is often used as a 'filler' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination, providing a canvas of foliage against which the larger thriller plants stand out. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.
Among its many wildflowers are several European species that have been introduced to America and become thoroughly naturalized, e.g., the mulleins (genus Verbascum), the common speedwell (Veronica officinalis), and the butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris). The common mullein (V. thapsus), also called flannel plant and torches, was formerly a favorite multipurpose medicinal plant it is still occasionally used for domestic remedies, e.g., as a tea for coughs. Its large stalks are said to have been oiled and used for funeral torches in early times. The speedwells, of which several species are native to the United States, are also called veronica, supposedly because of a resemblance of the flower to the relic (see veronica veronica
[Lat., probably connected with Greek Berenice], relic preserved in St. Peter's Church, Rome. It is said to be a veil that a woman used to wipe the face of Jesus as he was on the way to Calvary. The cloth retained the print of his face.
. Click the link for more information. ). Culver's root (V. virginica) has been used as a cathartic.
Butter-and-eggs, or yellow toadflax, has small snapdragonlike flowers of yellow and orange and is consequently known also as wild snapdragon. Among the other toadflaxes (genus Linaria) is the well-known American species, blue toadflax. Other indigenous wildflowers of the family include species of beardtongue, or pentstemon (genus Pentstemon) gerardia, or false purple foxglove (Gerardia) [for John Gerard Gerard, John
, 1545–1612, English botanist and barber-surgeon. He compiled a catalog (1596) of the plants in his garden, the first of its kind to be published in England.
. Click the link for more information. ] painted cup, or Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) and figwort (Scrophularia). The beardtongues, herbs or shrubs, are named for the flower's single sterile stamen that is bearded at its flattened extremity. The roots of the painted cups, chiefly a Western genus, are partially parasitic on the roots of other green plants. Their true flowers are inconspicuous but are commonly enveloped by bright red flowerlike bracts. C. linariaefolia is the state flower of Wyoming. The name Scrophularia derives from the early belief that because the figworts are characterized by deep-throated flowers, they should be medicinally valuable in treating throat ailments (e.g., scrofula).
Many plants of the family are used medicinally however, only the purple foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) of W Europe is economically important. Its leaves are the source of the drug digitalis, a powerful heart stimulant. The foxglove's tall spire of flowers, typical of many members of the family, makes it popular also as an ornamental. Each blossom, likened to the finger of a glove or to an elongated bell, points downward from the stalk. In England, where it grows wild, the plant has long been associated with fairies—as evidenced by many of its common names, e.g., fairy thimbles.
Numerous other plants of the family also have curious names derived from their unusual flower shapes—e.g., the turtle heads (Chelone) and monkey flowers (Mimulus) of North America and the little red elephants (Pedicularis groenlandica) of arctic and alpine regions. A favorite cultivated plant is the snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), native to the Mediterranean area. Its showy blossoms, likened to a dragon's snout, display a wide range of colors in the many varieties. Other ornamentals of the family include the Kenilworth ivy (Cymbalaria muralis), introduced into North America, and the calceolaria, or slipperwort (genus Calceolaria), herbs and shrubby plants of South America valued for their profusion of pouch-shaped, often spotted blossoms.
Figworts are classified in the division Magnoliophyta Magnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
. Click the link for more information. , class Magnoliopsida, order Scrophulariales.
Native to Europe and Asia, common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is part of the figwort or Scrophulariaceae family and is an erect, invasive herb. Common mullein invades and spreads rampantly throughout open areas in forests and meadows, growing aggressively and overtaking most other native grasses, herbs, shrubs and other plants. Because common mullein is also a vigorous seed producer, this weed can spread quickly and be difficult to get rid of completely. There are three main strategies for controlling common mullein weeds: manual or mechanical removal, biological control, and chemical control.
Hand pull the common mullein plants, preferably before the plant sets its seeds. The common mullein plants should pull up easily because of their shallow taproots.
Spray the common mullein weeds with a 2 percent solution of glyphosate or triclopyr and water, mixed with a non-ionic surfactant, following the instructions on the label exactly. Pour the mixture into a garden tank sprayer and spray the mullein to cover the leaves thoroughly.
Release the European curculionid weevil (Gymnaetron tetrum) or the mullein moth (Cucullia verbasci) around the common mullein plants. These two insects can get rid of the common mullein by destroying the seeds and feeding on the plants.
Reduce the chance of common mullein seed germination by planting the bare ground nearby mullein plants with vigorous native grasses or other plants that germinate readily. This will help to choke out the mullein seeds and decrease the chances that the mullein seeds will germinate successfully.
If you have only a small number of common mullein plants, hand pulling them is the easiest and safest solution. Employ the use of herbicides or biological controls if you have a large area that’s infested with mullein weeds.
Use triclopyr if you have desirable plants near or surrounding the common mullein, because this is a selective herbicide that kills broadleaf plants. You can use glyphosate only if you don’t have other plants nearby, because glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that will kill any plants that it comes into contact with.
Be extra careful when you’re manually removing the common mullein plants if they have flowers or seed capsules on them. If the seeds or blooms are present on the weed plants, remove these first and place them in sealed bags to dispose of them before hand pulling the common mullein.
Always wear protective glasses and gloves when you’re handling chemicals like herbicides. Use caution and consult your local agricultural extension service when releasing biological control insects, because after you release them into the natural environment they’re impossible to control.
Diuretic and “blood cleansing” herb with mild laxative and analgesic properties. Stimulates the liver, lymphatic system, heart and blood circulation.
Figwort is used externally for chronic skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis and to treat itching and hemorrhoids.
The plant is closely related to foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and both plants contain cardiac glycosides that can affect the heart, though in figwort the concentration is far lower. People with increased heart rate should avoid this plant.
Easy to grow, herbaceous perennial to 1m, full sun or part shade thrives in moist soils.
Carpenter’s Square, Common Figwort, Escrofularia, Grande Scrofulaire, Heal-all, Herbe aux Écrouelles, Herbe au Siège, Rosenoble, Scrofulaire, Scrofulaire des Bois, Scrofulaire Noueuse, Scrophula Plant, Scrophularia, Scrophularia marilandica, Scrophularia nodosa, Scrophularia Radix, Throatwort, Xuan Shen, Braunwurz (German), escrophularia (Spanish), knoldbrunro (Danish), Knotige Braunwurz (German), scrophulaire noueuse (French)