OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Identifying Medieval Plants


Linking the plants named in medieval manuscripts to those we know today can be very difficult-- the feferfugie of the 9th century may or may not be the feverfew grown in modern gardens. But we do have some useful clues about the plants of the early Middle Ages.

Archeology provides insight, however limited, into plants growing in Britain in the late Iron Age and in Roman Britain. Medieval herbals, compiled for use by the physicians of the time, tell us what plants were known in Britain -- some cultivated in gardens, some growing wild, and some imported. In the 1860s, Reverend Oswald Cockayne translated the Leechbook, the Lacnunga, and the Herbarium of Pseudo-Apuleius from Old English into modern English. Read more about the Leechbook and the Lacnunga:

Cockayne attempted to identify the plants named in the manuscripts, basing his conclusions on research into other medieval manuscripts, manuscript illustrations, and comparative etymologies.

Other early manuscripts also name plants known to gardeners in medieval Britain:

Continental sources
On the continent, information about garden plants can be found in:

Two lists of plants named in medieval manuscripts, along with tentative identification with modern plants:

Online resources on identification of medieval plants
Today, research continues into the identification of medieval plants. Useful online resources are:

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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
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F.D. Drewitt


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