Herb Robert (All About)
Herb Robert is a pinkish flower that grows in well-established hedges or at the edges of a deciduous woodland. It has five pinkish-purple petals which emerge in May and the plant continues to flower right through to the end of September. The flowers are borne in pairs and the whole plant has a pungent smell not unlike that of a fox. It is a member of the Geranium or Cranesbill family. It is so called because its seeds reminded viewers of the sharp pointed bill of a crane. Held upright it actually resembles a birthday candle in a holder that might be about to be inserted into a birthday cake. The leaves are three-lobed on long straggling stems and they turn bright red in autumn.Read moreRead less
Where does the name “Herb Robert” come from? Who was Robert? Tradition has it that the name was brought to Ireland by the Normans (although the plant was always a native here, established in woody places ever since the woods developed after the Ice Age). The Normans would have been familiar with stories of a powerful wizard in English folklore called Robin Goodfellow and as the name Robin is a diminutive of Robert, this plant was obviously one used by the said magician for his spells. In Ireland, the plant was widely used to staunch bleeding, especially in the east of the country.
The leaves were applied to the wound and it was believed that held there the bleeding would stop. It was also used as a cure for a disease of cattle called “red water fever”. Obviously, it was believed that there was a connection between the fiery red leaves of the plant in autumn and blood.
This plant is part of the plant community that grows in hedges and woodland edges. It is able to tolerate the lower intensities of light that occur here because of shading when the canopy of deciduous trees gets its leaves. It should be easily found on any field trip to a hedge or woodland area in June or September.
Things to do
1. Bring the class on a fieldtrip to a local hedge or woodland to look for all the plants that they have learned during their eight years in school. Herb Robert will be an easily recognised member of the flora seen.