On Valerian

Pottering about in the garden this morning I remember that on my little birthday trip last week I noticed a huge amount of the above plant growing on various railway embankments between Maynooth and Dublin.

It’s red valerian (aka spur valerian, kiss-me-quick, fox’s brush, devil’s beard & Jupiter’s beard among other names). I’d like to have some on my garden, actually. It’s very attractive and is probably sufficiently hardy to survive my lack of gardening skills.

Incidentally, is is not the same species as the true valerian shown above (also known as all-heal and setwall) which is also very nice, but has lighter flowers, a very pale pink or white. You will sometimes find this interspersed with red valerian when growing wild. It grows to quite a height and is not particularly fragrant so is probably not one for the garden but is a common wild flower.

Incidentally, in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express the victim is sedated prior to his murder using valerian, which can be taken as a tonic in the form of a dilute infusion (hence the name “all-heal”), but a powerful hypnotic in concentrated doses. It’s one of many common wild flowers that has medicinal properties but can be toxic if taken excessively.

It’s perhaps also worth mentioning that cats adore valerian in the same way they do catnip.

3 Responses to “On Valerian”

  1. Sandra De Weirdt Says:

    Very interesting.

  2. Thought it would be great to have in the garden until you mentioned the cats….

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