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Water Avens

This shy dropping flower half hidden behind its purple sepals hangs like a lantern and can be seen, not quite in the water but very close to it, along riversides, in damp marshy ground and wet woodland throughout Scotland, but is never seen in the Western Isles.

 

The upright somewhat delicate looking stems are hairy and branching, with leaf-stalks growing lower down and flower stalks stretching above the canopy of leaves.

 

Most of the leaves form a basal rosette and then grow alternately up the stems. The lower leaves have long stalks and are pinnate, with 2 to 3 opposite paired leaflets and a larger terminal leaflet. The terminal leaflet is itself 3-lobed and irregularly toothed. Stem leaves tend to be just 3-lobed and undivided, but still toothed and somewhat crinkly at the edges.

 

The flowers grow on long purple stalks with white hairs, branching at the tips to support 3 to 5 nodding flowers. Flowers are about 15mm long and surrounded by 5 hairy purple sepals, inside of which can just be seen the peach-coloured 5-lobed petals arranged in a bell-shape.

 

Inside this are many stamens surrounding a gynoecium with many pistils.

This develops and emerges from the flower as a hairy round many hooked achene with feathery tips, at which point the flower turns upwards.

 

The root of Water Avens has been used as an anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiseptic, and to treat various stomach complaints. In the past it was also known as Cure-All.

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