The Random Herbalist: Monks and Plant Migration

Photo credit: Andy Tinkham
Photo credit: Andy Tinkham

Along with dill, which we’ve briefly brushed by, other plants also traveled with the monks as they made their way across Europe:

To the monks, who in their way were great gardeners, we are indebted for the introduction of several plants ; and since in many cases the ancient monastery has disappeared, the flowers which were wont to grow in its garden are often taken for wild ones. Among others, the Snowdrop was a favourite flower in a monastic garden, for it was sacred to the Virgin Mary ; and in many a shady dell, especially in the west of England, where not a stone of the old convent appears, the snowdrop still blossoms in the spring, telling us of a vanished garden. Its native home, however, is on the Alps. Another plant, too, they brought from the mountains of Central Europe, a species of dock (Rames, aljñnus), Monk’s Rhubarb. No beauty of bloom or of foliage recommended it, nor did any mystic legend enshroud its history ; but its root possessed medicinal qualities, and the monks well understood the healing virtues of herbs. It is now found in many places in the north.*

Photo credit: Bart Busschots
Photo credit: Bart Busschots

*Chambers’ Journal of Popular Literature, Science, Arts , vol. 66, 1889.

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