Scrophularia smithii Figworts attract bumblebees and help bee conservation
Unusual flowers of the figwort
Figworts are medicinal herbs with unusual flowers that are usually greenish on the inside but have dark purplish or almost chocolate brown outer lips. There are hundreds of different types.
Tenerife has its own endemic species including one that grows high on Mt Teide. There are other species that grow in woods on the island and on rocky ground.
Figworts are pollinated by wasps and bumblebees. These insects are especially attracted to them and seek them out. Bumblebees, like Honeybees, are on the decline so figworts are type of plant that are very beneficial to the survival of these pollinators and a definite aid to the conservation of these insects..
Many species have tuberous roots and the whole plant gives off a characteristic but somewhat unpleasant odour.
The Teide Figwort (Scrophularia glabrata) grows, as its name suggests on Mt Teide and on other mountains of Tenerife. It can be found at altitudes of 1600-2400 metres. This species can also be found in the pine forests of the island. It is also found on the neighbouring island of La Palma.
Teide Figwort is a perennial herb that produces panicles of its flowers at the tops of its branching stems. Its leaves have serrated edges and after flowering it has seed capsules like other members of this genus.
Like the other figworts it has medicinal properties though it should not be used by people with heart problems or high blood pressure. This is because these herbs contain heart stimulants.
Figworts are used, in the form of a decoction of the roots, to treat disorders of the lymph glands, for their anti-inflammatory properties and as diuretics. Externally they are applied as a wash or as a cataplasm as a remedy for skin diseases, to treat haemorrhoids, and to heal wounds. A strong infusion of leaves and stems is prepared for these purposes or the herb can be boiled in white rum.
Tenerife flora: Teide Figwort and Red Viper's Bugloss on Mt Teide
Figwort species Scrophularia smithii
Other species of Figwort
In Tenerife the annual species S. arguta is found in dry rocky areas and pine forests in many parts of the island. It only reaches some 25cm in height.
S. smithii is another taller perennial species and this is found in the evergreen laurel forests of the Anaga mountain range as well as woodlands along the northern coast as far as La Orotava. It has greenish flowers. S. smithii subspecies langeana also favours laurel forests in the north of Tenerife. It is distinguished by having hairy stems and leaves.
S. nodosa is a large and widely distributed figwort known as the Common Figwort and Woodland Figwort. It is has square stems distributed throughout many parts of Europe and the northern hemisphere and grows in moist woodland and waste ground.
© 2012 Steve Andrews