For gardeners with a sense of history

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




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Plants of the Early Middle Ages



What can we really know about the plants familiar to gardeners centuries ago? Actually, what archeology can tell us increases with every passing month. This augments what early manuscripts tell us about medicinal herbs and other plants known to gardeners in Britain and on the Continent. Manuscript sources of information about medieval plants include:

Other sources of information include:

In the 1860s, Reverend Oswald Cockayne translated the Leechbook and the Lacnunga, and until fairly recently this was the only translation available to readers. Cockayne attempted to identify the plants named in the manuscripts, basing his conclusions on research into other medieval manuscripts, manuscript illustrations, and comparative etymologies. Linking the plants named in medieval manuscripts with plants we know today can be very difficult. The feferfugie of the 9th century may or may not be the feverfew of today.


Today, research continues into the identification of plants named in Anglo-Saxon/Old English sources. Three useful online resources are:


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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
it is well to have lived, and to have seen the everlasting beauty of the world.
F.D. Drewitt


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