Cyprus Mail

Plant of the week: Lavender lookalike used in pot-pouri

Name: Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus)

Otherwise known as: Cotton Lavender

Habitat: A dense, evergreen shrub member of the compositae family with a pungent, aromatic, lemony foliage supporting clusters of yellow, button flowers that transform into an oblong seed capsule.

What does it do: The plant is antispasmodic, disinfectant, emmenogogue, stimulent and vermifuge – in medieval times it was a favoured method of destroying intestinal worms. Some herbalists used it to induce menstruation, as a kidney reviver and a method of overcoming jaundice; it was a common application to relieve the pain from stings and bites. Until the 19th century country women applied it to open wounds believing it would hasten healing and improve the scar. An infusion of leaf and flower was used as a cure for ringworm and skin lesions.

Most commonly, the leaves were added to pot-pouri and placed in linen chests and wardrobes to repel moths and fleas. Santolina was one of the herbs, mixed with chamomile, coltsfoot and carob syrup to produce herbal tobacco.

Victorian gardeners planted Santolina in borders to overcome the attentions of cabbage whites and other predatory insects in their kitchen gardens.

Although Santolina is often referred to as Cotton Lavender and French Lavender, it is not a true Lavender, but in fact, a member of the Daisy family. Sensitive skin may suffer from exposure to sunlight if in contact with Santolina.


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