Common Lady’s Mantle is a name used to cover a group of 10 very similar perennials often seen in grassland and open woods throughout Scotland, except in the far North West.
All of the plants have leaves that are roundish in outline, with 7 – 11 shallow toothed lobes and heavily pleated along each lobe when young. They are noted for their ability to turn dew or rain water into round beads that perch on the soft smooth leaves. This feature makes them very easy to recognise and the plant is also known as Dew Cup.
Their extreme ‘hydrophobicity’ is caused by a dense layer of microscopic hairs over the leaf’s surface, which reduces the contact between water and leaf surface, making the water form into spheres. This is known as the ‘Lotus effect’ as is also evident in the leaves of the lotus flower. The lower leaves have more lobes, reducing in number in the upper leaves.
The stems are sometimes hairy, branching into many stems that carry the flowers. Tiny yellow-green flowers, 2-4mm across, form an inflorescence on the upper erect branches that rises above the leaves. The flowers have no petals, just sepals and a calyx.
Lady’s Mantle is rich in Vitamin C, salicylic acid and tannins. Edible, but bitter in taste, it has been used in herbal medicine as a tea to relieve various ailments.