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Flower spike of the Butterbur

At the end of February or beginning of March the Butterbur begins to flower.  The pinkish blooms appear in dense clusters on a thick, fleshy spike which can grow to about 50cm (20 inches) in height.  You'll find these plants growing in boggy ground, often beside rivers and streams.

The flowers only last for a few weeks, and as they begin to decay the leaves appear.  They are the largest leaves of any wild plant in the U.K., and when full grown can measure up to 100cm across (39 inches).  Surprisingly, this giant leaved plant is actually a member of the daisy family.

It's believed the leaves were once used to wrap butter, hence the name.  Another name given to this plant is 'plaguewort' because it was seen to grow in abundance on the graves of plague victims, and may also have been used as a herbal remedy in the treatment of the plague.

Butterbur has long been used as a herbal treatment for migraines.  Originally the root of the plant was used, but this was found to be potentially toxic.  Most butterbur supplements now utilise just the leaves.

More info at: UK Safari Butterbur Fact File

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