Sunday, January 18, 2015

Orpine stonecrop/ Sankthansurt

Hylotelephium telephium 

Flora and Fauna
Viborg the Latin Garden, photo GB


Orpine stonecrop is a 20-50 cm tall plant with oval fleshy leaves and numerous yellow-green, yellow-white or purple flowers in umbel-like flat tops in August-September. It is a succulent perennial groundcover of the family Crassulaceae (same family as goldmoss stonecrop)  and native to Eurasia. It is widespread in Caucasus, Centralasia, East Asia , Sibiria and Europe

A number of cultivars, often with purplish leaves, are grown in gardens as well as hybrids between this species and the related Hylotelephium spectabile (Iceplant) , especially the popular Sedum 'Herbstfreude' ('Autumn Joy'). Occasionally garden plants may escape and naturalise as has happened in parts of North America as wildflowers.

There are several subspecies including:
  • H. telephium ssp. fabaria - West & Central Europe
  • H. telephium ssp. maximum - Europe
  • H. telephium ssp. ruprechtii - North-east Europe
  • H. telephium ssp. telephium - Central & East Europe

This species (and some of its close relatives) are sometimes still placed in the genus Sedum.

Orpine stonecrop or simply orpine has various names like : frog's stomach - harping Johnny - life-everlasting - live forever - Midsommermen - Orphan John - Witch's Moneybags.

The orpine stonecrop grows in  stone fences, thickets, slopes, beach-fields, pastures  and old thatched roofs.

The common orpine (H. ss. maximum) with yellowgreen flowers is common in Denmark in oak thicket, stone dikes, dry slopes , pastures and beach banks. The red orpine H. subspecies telephium with purple flowers are found as feral here and there in Denmark.

The butterfly Copper (Ildfugl) and various other butterflies and insects feed on the nectare from the flowers in August-September.

Purple orpine, Dragstrup church, N.Jutland /gb

Folk Medicine
Orpine stonecrop is not used anymore in medicine. Earlier a decoction from the leaves were used against painful urination. As a folk remedy the fresh crushed leaves were put upon burns, corns etc. And the plant was put upon the shoulder until it withered as a means against haemorroids!

Orpine was sold from pharmacies as an ointment which stopped blood and pains in the genitals. The crushed plant was used as a wound-healing cover. In order to cure nosebleed the leaves were put on the forehead and the juice in the nostrils. The plant was part of a vinegar decoction used as an ointment upon lumps and to reduce swellings.



Edward Robert Hughes:Midsummer Eve 1908: wikipedia.
On Midsummer Evening people went out to pluck the orpine. (a Danish custom) They hung stalks up under a beam in the house with names for each member of the household - and omens were taken for every stalk and each name, mostly about who would die and when. The stalk which withered first told that this person would die as the first and he or she might even die before the end of the year. A bad divination!

But stalks were also hung up by the young girls in order to see "Who will be my sweetheart?" and "From where will he come?" This depended on in which direction the branch grew.

Two plants were hung up for the newly wed to see how their marriage would be. Would they get divorced or live happily -. depending if the plant grew to or from each other. Sideshoots meant how many children they would get.

The father of the house took omens about his children's future and development.

But the orpine could also protect against witchcraft and no witch could get into the house where an orpine was hung by the door. 

Purple orpine at Dragstrup church, N.Jutland/gb

A sick cow which might have been exposed to magic should have orpine with buttermilk, and if a cow gave bloody milk it was given orpine cooked in cream milk
A horse with lice was rubbed with juice from orpine mixed with quick lime - and against witchcraft some steel and a piece of the root were placed in the horse grime or between the ears. .

Other use:
To plant the orpine upon the mønning(roof ridge) was a custom which kept the roof ridge whole and strong.

The plant dyes yellow with alum.

Especially the purple orpine is a very popular garden plant. New plants can be made from the leaves.

Brøndegaard, Dansk etnobotanik, Folk og flora, bd. 3,  Sankthansurt.
Wikipedia; Danish: Sankthansurt English: Orpine.. 

photo: grethe bachmann 2007


Out on the prairie said...
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Thyra said...
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