Wyrtig

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 Roman  Britain

 
 

Although plant remains, including pollen, are fragile and survive only under special circumstances, the tools of garden archeology are continually improving, and with it our knowledge of early garden plants. Using these tools, archaeo- and paleo-botanists examine such plant remains as pollen, phytoliths, waterlogged plants, charred plant remains, and fossils. Soil composition, root casts, postholes, garden beds, planting pits, and trenches also provide insight into what was growing in these gardens. For example:

  • When Colchester was sacked and burned by Boudicca’s troops in 61 CE, both plant material and prepared foods were carbonized in the fire, and archeologists have found the charred remains of figs, cones (from stone pine), coriander, poppy, plums, pears, flax, beans, lentils, celery, anise, and dill.

  • The site at Calleva Atrebatum, near Silchester, produced plant remains of plum, walnut, fig, almond, dill, coriander, fennel, parsley, and other plants.

  • Work at villa sites at Low Ham and Latimer found remains of hazel, pear or crabapple, walnut, stone pine, plum and sloe, hawthorn, marjoram, vervain, and poppy.

  • Analysis of remains at a Roman fort at Bearsden in Strachclyde, Scotland, revealed that a soldier’s diet included strawberries, raspberries, figs, and foods flavored with poppy seed and coriander.

Cultivated, wild, or imported?
Finding plant remains on a site does not necessarily mean that plant was cultivated there -- some remains, such as grains and exotic foods, arrived in food shipments. Other plants probably grew wild in the surrounding landscape. The plants listed below have been found on Romano-British sites:

 
 
Edible plants Grains

Allium porrum

Leek

Avena fatua

Wild oat

Apium graveolens

Celery

Avena strigosa

Bristle-pointed oat

Arrhenatherum tuberosum

Onion couch grass

Fagopyrus esculentum

Buckwheat

Asparagus officinalis

Asparagus

Hordeum sp., H. vulgare

Barley

Atriplex patula

Fat hen, goosefoot

Panicum miliaceum

Millet

Beta vulgaris

Beet

Secale cerealis

Rye

Brassica sp ?cultivar ?cultivated brassica

Triticum aestivum undet

Bread/club wheat

Brassica oleracea

Cabbage

Triticum dicoccum

Emmer wheat

Brassica rapa sylvestrus Wild cabbage

Triticum spelt

Spelt

Chaenopodium alba

White goosefoot

Grasses  

Chenopodium polyspermum

Many-seeded goosefoot

Agropyron repens

Couch grass

Conopodium majus

Ground nut, pignut

Bromus mollis Soft brome, Soft cheatgrass

Cucumis sativus

Cucumber

Bromus secalinus

Chess brome

Daucus carota Wild carrot

Bromus sterilis

Barren brome

Fragaria x. ananassa Strawberry

Gramineae undet.

Grasses

Lathyrus sativa

Grass pea

Lolium perenne

Perennial ryegrass

Leguminosae sp

Pea or bean

Poa sp. Meadow grass

Lens culinaris

Lentil

Rushes and sedges

Lens esculenta

Lentil

Carex flacca

Marsh/Spike rush

Pastinaca sativa Parsnip

Eleocharis S. palustres

Spike rush

Pisum sativum

Pea

Juncus articulatus

Creeping rush

Polygonum aviculare

Common knotgrass

Juncus effusus

Tussock rush

Raphanus raphanistrum

Radish

Juncus sp.

Rush

Rubus fruticosus

Blackberry , bramble

Luzula sp. Woodrush
Rumex sp. Dock Schoenoplectus lacustris Sedge
Rumex acetosella Sheep sorrel Typha sp. Cattail
Rumex crispus Curly dock Textile and dye plants
Rumex obtusifolia Sharp dock

Hypericum perforatum

St. John's wort

Sinapsis arvensis Charlock

Isatis tinctoria

Woad, glastum

Smyrnium olusatrum

Alexanders

Linum usitatissimum

Linen

Smyrnium olusatrum

Alexanders

Reseda luteola Dyer's rocket, weld

Sorghum vulgare

Sorghum

Other plants

Tragopogon pratensis

Salsify

Aethusa cynapium Fool's parsley

Trifolium sp.

Clover

Agromstemma githago

Corn cockle

Turnip

Brassica napa

Alisma sp.

Water plantain

Urtica dioica

Nettle

Anthemis cotula

Stinking chamomile

Urtica urens

Small nettle

Anthriscus caucaulis Bur chervil

Valerianella dentata

Corn salad

Anthriscus sylvestris Cow parsley

Vicia faba

Broad bean

Aphanes arvensis

Field parsley piert

Vicia sativa

Common vetch

Aphanes microcarpa

Thistle

Vitis vinifera

Grape

Apium nodiflorum Fool's watercress

Medicinal plants

Arctium lappa

Burdock

Achillea sp.

Yarrow

Arenaria sp. Sandwort

Aegopodium podagraria

Goutweed

Bellis sp Daisy

Alchemilla vulgaris

Lady’s mantle

Bupleurum tenuissimum

Slender hare’s ear

Artemisia absinthium

Wormwood

Calluna sp. Heather

Atropa belladonna

Belladonna

Camelina sp. Cloth of gold

Ballota nigra

Black horehound

Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherd's purse

Camelina sativa

Camelina

Carduus sp. Thistle

Cannibis sativa

Hemp

Centaurea cyanus

Cornflower

Chelidonium majus

Greater celandine

Chenopodium alba

Lamb's quarters, Goosefoot

Chrysanthemum vulgare/parthenium Tansy/feverfew

Chenopodium murale

Nettle-leaved goosefoot

Conium maculatum Hemlock Cerastium fontanum Mouse-eared chickweed

Erysimum cheiranthoides

Treacle mustard

Cicuta virosa

Bull thistle

Euphrasia officinalis agg.

Red eyebright

Cirsium arvense Field thistle
Foeniculum vujlgare Fennel Cirsium vulgare Bull thistle

Glechoma hederacea

Ground ivy

Conium maculatum

Poison hemlock

Hyoscyamus niger

Henbane

Coronopus squamatus

Greater swine weed

Hypericum perforatum Common St. John's wort Cuscuta europaea Dodder
Iris sp. Iris Eurbynchium swartzii Moss
Lactuca sp. Lettuce Filipendula ulmaria Meadowsweet

Lamium purpureum

Red dead nettle

Fumitory sp. Fumitory
Malva sylvestrix Common mallow Galeopsis sp. Large flowered hemp nettle

Medicago lupulina

Black medic

Galium aparine

Goosegrass

Melilotus Melilot Galium, not aparine Bedstraw
Mentha aquatica Water mint

Geranium dissectum

Cut-leaved cranesbill

Menthus Mint

Geranium molle

Dovesfoot cranesbill

Nepeta Cataria

Catnip

Glebionis segetam

Corn marigold

Papaver sominferum

Opium poppy

Glyceria sp.

Flote grass

Parietaria diffusa Pellitory of the wall Heracleum sphondylium Cow parsnip
Persicaria maculosa Redshank, Lady's thumb

Hypochaeris glabra

Smooth cat’s ear

Plantago lanceolata

Ribwort plantain

Hypochaeris radicata

Cat’s ear

Plantago major Plantain

Hyoscyamus niger

Henbane

Pulicaria sp.

Fleabane

Lapsana communis Nipplewort

Prunella vulgaris

Self heal

Lathyrus aphaca

Yellow vetch

Ruta graveolens

Rue

Lathyrus nissolia

Grass vetchling

Sisymbrium officinale

Hedge mustard

Lavatera arborea

Tree mallow

Stachys/Betonica officinalis

Betony

Leontodon sp. Hawkbit
Taraxacum sp. Dandelion Leuchanthemum vulgare Ox-eye daisy
Trifolium Clover Linaria vulgaris Toadflax

Verbena officinalis

Verbena

Linum cathartica Fairy flax
Viola sp. Violet

Malva pusilla

Small malva

Trees and shrubs Morus negra Mulberry

Abies sp.

Fir

Oenanthe pimpinelloides Water dropwort
Acer campestre Field maple Ondites Red Bartsia
Alnus sp. Alder

Ononis repens

Common restharrow

Amygdalus dulcis Almond

Onopordon acanthium

Scotch thistle

Betulus sp.

Birch

Papaver argemone

Long prickly-head poppy

Buxus sempervirens

Ash

Papaver rhoeas Flanders poppy

Castanea sativa

Chestnut

Persicaria lapathifolia Pale persicaria
Corylus avellana Hazelnut

Picris hieracoides

Hawkeye oxtongue

Cragaegus monogyna Hawthorne

Polygonum arenastrum

Cinquefoil

Fagus European beech

Polygonum arenastrum

Cinquefoil

Ficus carica

Fig

Polygonum aviculare

Common knotgrass

Fraxinus excelsior European ash Polypodium Fern

Hedera helix

Ivy

Potentilla arguta

Tall cinquefoil

Ilex sp. Holly

Potentilla erecta

Tormentil

Juglans regia

Walnut

Potentilla reptans

Creeping cinquefoil

Malus sylvestris

Apple

Pteridium aquilinum

Bracken

Mespilus germanica

Medlar

Pteropsida Marsh fern

Morus nigra

Mulberry

Ranunculus acris Meadow buttercup

Olea europaea

Olive

Ranunculus bulbosus Bulbous buttercup

Phoenix dactylifera

Date

Ranunculus S. Batrachium Water crowfood

Pinus pinea

Stone pine

Ranunculus parviflorus

Small flowered buttercup

Prunus avium

Bird cherry, Gean cherry

Ranunculus repens

Campion

Prunus cerasus

Sour cherry

Ranunculus sardous

Hairy buttercup

Prunus domestica

Plum

Reseda lutea

Wild mignonette

Prunus domestica sp. Italica

Greengage plum

Rhinanthus sp. Yellow rattle
Prunus institia Bullace Rhytidiadelphus triquetris Moss
Prunus persica Peach

Pteridium aquilinum

Bracken

Prunus spinosa

Blackthorn, sloe

Scandix pecten-veneris Shepherd's needle

Pyrus communis

Pear

Scleranthus annuus German knotweed, annual knawel

Pyrus sp.

Apple/pear

Selaginella Spike moss
Quercus sp. Oak

Senecio sp.

Ragwort

Rhamnus cathartica Buckthorn

Senecio sylvaticus

Woodland ragwort

Sambucus ebulus

Dwarf elder

Silene alba Campion

Sambucus nigra

Elderberry

Silene ratifolia White campion

Stone pine

Pinus pinea

Silene vulgaris

Bladder campion

Tilia Basswood, Linden Solanum nigrum Black nightshade

Ulmus

Elm

Sonchus asper

Spiny sow thistle

Viburnum, ?opulus Viburnum

Sonchus oleracea

Sow thistle

Condiments and seasonings

Sphagnum Sphagnum moss

Allaria petiolata

Garlic mustard

Spergula arvensis

Corn spurrey

Anethum graveolens

Dill

Stachys arvenis

Field woundwort

Barbarea vulgaris

Bitter cress

Stachys sylvatica

Hedge woundwort

Brassica nigra

Black mustard

Stellaria graminea Common stitchwort

Chaerophylli aureum

Golden chervil

Succisa Scabius

Coriandrum sativum

Coriander

Torilis arvensis Hedge parsley

Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel

Tripleurospermum Scentless mayweed
Montia Miner's water lettuce, Blinks

Valerianella locusta

Lamb's lettuce

Origanum sp

Marjoram

Valerianella dentata

Lamb's lettuce

Persicaria hydropiper Water pepper

Vicia cracca

Cow vetch

Petroselinum crispum

Parsley

Vicia hirsuta

Hairy vetch

Peucedanum graveolens

Dill

Vicia/lathyrus

Vetchling/wild pea

Pimpinella anisum Anise    
Polygonum hydropiper Water pepper    

Satureja hortensis

Summer savory

   

Thlapspi arvense

Field penny-cress

   

   Sources


Romano-British gardens

Roman garden:

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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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