Agrimonia eupatoria is a yellow wildflower more commonly known as common agrimony, church steeples or sticklewort. Incorporated into Meadowmat for Birds and Bees, this deciduous, perennial herbaceous plant is a native species to the UK that grows to about 100 cm (1-2 feet). Covered in soft hairs, the plant has serrated edged pinnate leaves and a striking spike of five-petalled yellow flowers that bloom throughout the summer months of June, July and August. The flowers have a faint smell of apricots and have a generous pollen supply that is ideal to attract hoverflies, flies and honey bees.
Once pollinated, the flowers develop into red-brown hooked burs that are distributed via the coats of cattle, sheep and deer, as well as any passing humans.
Where to find agrimony
Agrimonia eupatoria likes neutral or chalky soils. It is usually found in rough grassland where its tall structure, growing in clumps, can provide shelter for butterflies, mice and voles; it also provides a great habitat for birds. Agrimony is also commonly found in field borders, hedgerows and woodland edges and it is listed in the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list. For garden growing, agrimony prefers sun or partial shade and regular watering. It can be grown from seed or propagation by dividing the root in the spring or autumn. Agrimony is unlikely to do well in shade or wet acidic soils.
Traditional uses for agrimony
Being abundant throughout the UK, although not in the north of Scotland, agrimonia eupatoria has been used in herbal medicine for hundreds of years; the Anglo-Saxons identified its healing properties and used it extensively for wounds, snake bites and warts. In later times it was used to treat gunshot wounds.
The herb features extensively in folklore; witches used agrimony in spells and to ward off hexes, while those practising voodoo would use it to repel jinxes and block curses. People would often hang a sachet of it in their homes to protect them against goblins, evil spirits and poisoning. Even today, practising Wiccans put agrimony leaves in a pillowcase to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Agrimony remains a trusted treatment as a mild astringent and tonic, and is considered effective
in the treatment of coughs, sore throats and diarrhoea (it is often administered with honey or sugar). Oil of agrimony is high in tannin and is used to treat ulcers, blemishes and spots and, owing to the tannin, it is recommended as an effective leather dressing.