Friday, August 17, 2012

Fine-Leaved Water Dropwort / Billebo Klaseskærm

Oenanthe aquatica

Previous names: Oenanthe phellandrium / Phellandrium aquaticum

Status:  poisonous.
 Most other species of Oenanthe are poisonous.

Oenanthe is from Greek and means honey-wine flower. The English name Water Dropwort: swollen tubers resemble drops, a signature in medieval times that it opened blocked urinary tracks drop by drop. Other English names are Water Fennel and Horsebane. The Danish name Billebo ( = a beettle's house). When the  plant has died the hollow stems are floating upon the surface of the water and little water insects like beetles like to use them as a getaway.
The plant is native to Europe and western Asia. It is biennial and flowering (white flowers)  in July - September in its second year of growth.  Its habitai is at the edge of lakes, rivers and ponds -in mineral-rich soil and slowly flowing water. It has a very distinct smell of parsley, which os useful when it has to be identified. The plant is quite characteristic with its strongly divided stem and garlands of thick roots at the bottom. The fruits are spread by water. 

foto: stig bachmann nielsen,
Medicinal use /Folk medicine:
The fruits have been used in chronic pectoral affections like bronchitis, pulmonary consumption and asthma, also in dyspepsia, obstinate ulcers etc. An alcoholic extract and essence of the fruits has also been recommended as a valuable remedy in the relief of consumption and bronchitis.

The root has sometimes been used as a local remedy in piles. When eaten in mistake the results have sometimes proved fatal. The symptoms produced are those of irritation of the stomach, failure of circulation and great cerebral disturbance, indicated by giddiness, convulsions and coma.

Medicinal use today:
Homeopathy only.

The fresh leaves are injurious to cattle, producing a kind of paralysis when eaten. When dried they lose their deleterious properties.

depressive, death from paralysis. Overdose of fruits causes vertigo, intoxication. Symptoms: irritation of stomach, failure of circulation, cerebral disturbance, giddiness, convulsions, coma

foto: stig bachmann nielsen,

Story from the 17th century:

Case recorded by John Ray 17th century: quoting letter from Irish physician Dr. Francis Vaughan: "8 boys went fishing in Clonmell, Tiperary. They mistook Oneanthe aquaticum for Sium aquaticum and ate the roots. 4-5 hours after arriving home they had fits, 4 died, the other 3 ran stark mad, but came to reason, another's hairs and nails fell out. All had their speech paralysed.

The Water Dropwort /Billebo is from the umbelliferae or apiacea family. It's a relative to Carrot, Fennel, Dill, Anise, Caraway, Angelica and other plants with clusters or umbels of flowers and fine feathery leaves, plants and herbs we know so well and use in the kitchen, but there are among the umbelliferaes also some extremely poisonous plants like the Cowbane and the Poison Hemlock and the above mentioned Water Dropwort, and they can be difficult to identify.

Source: Danmarks Natur, Felthåndbogen; Fugle og Natur; Herbs Treat-and Taste; A Modern Herbal.
Photo Vejlbo Mose: grethe bachmann nielsen
Photo Moesgård: stig bachmann nielsen, naturplan .dk . 


Haverose said...

Billebo er en smuk skærmplante og infromation og den tragiske historie, skal nok få mig til at tænke mig om en ekstra gang når jeg plukker hvide skærmblomster.

En anden som jeg for nylig hørte om, Pignut på engelsk, kan ikke lige huske hvad den hedder på dansk, har en rod som kan spises og smager af nødder, er desværre yderst sjælden i danmark. Den ligner også din Billebo men vokser altså ikke ved eller i vand. Man kan købe frø i england og det overvejer jeg, så jeg kan så den i min have. For det lyder da lækkert med nøddesmagen, ikke! :-)

Thyra said...

Hej Haverose! Jeg har kikket efter, det kan jeg ikke lade være med.!! Den hedder svinenød på dansk. svenskerne kalder den nötkörvel. Det er da en god idé hvis du kan få den til haven når den smager så godt. Prøv at se på nettet: Conopodium majus, der står lidt om den. Den findes også som Flora Danica-tavle.

Hold da op, den findes ude ved Moesgård Skovmølle og ved Moesgård som de to eneste steder i Danmark. Jeg bor kun få kilometer derfra. Dér må jeg ud!! Tak for det, Haverose!

To the English:
We are talking about the Conopodium majus, pignut, and Haverose just told me about it now. It is only found in two habitats in DK, and it's here south of Århus, where I live!!

Grethe ´)

Haverose said...

Hej Grethe
Det er rigtigt! Jeg googlede den også for en tid siden og der var oversigtskort hvor man netop kan se hvor sjælden den er. Det ville være rigtig spændende hvis du fandt den og fik billede og lavede et indlæg!
I england hvor den ellers for 10 år siden, var ekstremt udbredt, kunne man se på kort at den er gået enormt tilbage nu. Men dog meget mere udbredet end her.
Held og lykke med skattejagten ;-)

stardust said...

While many species of water dropwort are toxic, Oenanthe javanica (Japanese parsley) is edible and is favored as one of the seven grasses of spring in Japan. There is a saying “Don’t eat water dropwort of May.” Probably highly toxic one grows in May. This post is like one page of pictorial book of Danish flora. Thank you for sharing the information, Grethe.


Thyra said...

Thank you, Yoko. Yes, there is a big difference in species in the various countries, and if I moved to another country I would have to revide my info about plants!!

I came to think about mushrooms. There have been some tragic incidents here in DK, where families coming from south east Asia have mistaken the Death Cap for an edible musroom from their own local area, recently a Thai-family near Vejle who are terribly sick.
I've noticed that they put up warning signs for Death Cap in Australia. It might be a good idea here too.

Japan is an island realm, there might be many divergences although when I look at your blog I see so many flowers I know from here - but there are also exciting plants I haven't seen before. The world is multifarious!

Have a nice Sunday!
Grethe ´)