What’s a -Wort?


Purple milkwort, Sewickley Heights Park, 8 Sept 2023 (picture by Kate St. John)

12 September 2023

Why do some vegetation have the suffix “-wort” of their names?

The suffix “-wort” merely means “plant.” In earlier centuries, plant widespread names typically referred to bodily traits, resemblance, or beneficial medicinal makes use of.

Univ of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum: Gardening with Native Crops: Worts and Weeds, pt. 1

Listed below are some just lately blooming “-worts.”

Purple milkwort (Polygala sanguinea), above, is native to North America. “The genus title Polygala comes from the historical Greek “a lot milk”, because the plant was thought to extend milk yields in cattle.” I don’t know if this works.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), associated to ragweed, is utilized in cooking and has been used medicinally. It has a bitter taste. Why “mug”? I don’t know.

Mugwort leaves are white underneath (photo by Kate St. John)
Mugwort leaves are white beneath (picture by Kate St. John)
Mugwort flowers are brown in September, Schenley Park, 23 Sept 2021 (picture by Kate St. John)

Pilewort (Erechtites hieraciifolius) is a member of the Aster household that grows simply in disturbed soil. Quirky Science says the “reported makes use of embody the treating of hemorrhage, dysentery, pores and skin illnesses, and cholera. It’s a purgative and emetic. The title suggests it’s good in treating piles (hemorrhoids).”

Pilewort, Pittsburgh East Finish, 28 Aug 2023 (picture by Kate St. John)
Pilewort flower heads and seeds (photo by Kate St. John)
Pilewort flower heads and seeds, Sept 2016 (picture by Kate St. John)

St. Johns wort (Hypericum perforatum), imported from Europe, is so-named as a result of it blooms in June and was historically harvested on St. John’s Day, June 24, to adorn houses and keep off evil. It’s an natural therapy for despair and has been planted almost worldwide.

St. Johns wort, South Facet of Pittsburgh, July 2022 (picture by Kate St. John)

(photographs by Kate St. John)


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