Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
Tormentil is a particulary helpful plant if you are just a beginner at identification of the wildflowers in the Western Isles.
This plant likes acid moorland soil, as you walk down from the top of a hill when the tormentil peters out, the soil has become more lime, so if we are working on identification of pale pink orchids for instance, if the tormentil has gone the plants are more likely to be the lime loving Hebridean Orchid than the acid Loving Heath Spotted Orchid.
Tormentil lowers May-September.
The yellow flowers are many headed, with four petals.
approx 15mm across, on long slender stalks - main identifying feature
This perennial wildflower likes acid damp soil,
it is a very common plant in the Western Isles!
Grows up to 2000m
Plant is 10 - 40cm tall
Tormentil is upright or creeping,
when creeping it does not root along the creepers.
Tormentil has 5 lobed and toothed Leaves
The stem leaves are without a stalk (sessile)
Leaves growing from the root (radical) appear in spring only (vernal)
This perennial wildflower likes acid damp soil
Plant Herbal History
Tormentilla is derived from the Latin tormina meaning colic which it was used herbally to treat.
There are also many records of the root of this plant being used herbally to make an astringent tooth powder for gum disease. (Nowadays it has been replaced by the herb Rhatany for economic reasons)
It has been used herbally to treat cuts, wounds, mouth ulcers, inflammation, sunburn, haemorrhoids, diverticulitus, frostbite, burns, diarrhea, for making artist's colours (red dye from root) and it is even used in making some types of schnapps!
Be careful how you handle this plant!
Prolonged skin contact with this wild plant can cause scarring, and it is a powerful herbal astringent so seek advice before using it internally.
Related Wildflowers found in the Western Isles
Tormentil is related to wild strawberry, marsh cinquefoil, and silverweed, other wildflowers which also have herbal uses and grow abundantly in the Western Isles.
Other Names for this Herb
Tormentil is sometimes called biscuits, shepherd's knapperty, English sarsaparilla (because it has herbal tonic properties) red root or bloodroot because of the dye the root produces, septfoil, shepherd's knot, or thormantle but usually tormentil.
The gaelic name for tormentil is cairt làir.
Locals may be amused to know a packet of 175 Tormentil seeds costs £2
Please email the webmaster if you have any more lore or identification tips that we can add to this, or if you spot any inaccuracies.