Wildflowers of the Westborough Reservoir


Swamp-Honeysuckle or Swamp Azalea, Heath family (Ericaceae), Native
Swamp Honeysuckle

When a sweet fragrance wafts through the early summer air near a shore or streambank, chances are that swamp-honeysuckle (Rhododendron viscosum) is in bloom in the nearby shrubbery. The white flowers are large and lovely. In spite of its common name, this shrub is an azalea, not a honeysuckle. It belongs to the heath family (Ericaceae), along with other azaleas, rhododendrons, and blueberries. It is also called swamp azalea or clammy azalea.

Partridgeberry, Bedstraw or Madder family (Rubiaceae), Native

In mid-July, pairs of small, funnel-shaped, white blossoms adorn the vines of partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), an evergreen creeper found in the woods at the Reservoir. Each pair of flowers later yields one berry, which turns red in the fall. The berries are apparently relatively low in nutritional value, since they can often still be found uneaten on the plants in the spring.

Native Americans used a tea made from partridgeberry leaves to speed childbirth, and this practice spread among the European settlers. Because of this use, as well as others related to "female troubles," the plant was called squaw vine. One Native American group also used a tea from the plant to treat insomnia.

Heal-all, Mint family (Labiatae), Alien

The small, light purple flowers of heal-all or self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) first appear along grassy paths in May, but the dense flowerheads can also be spotted in lawns, where mowing keeps the plants small. A member of the mint family, heal-all typically blooms throughout the summer. It spreads by runners as well as by seed.

The names heal-all and self-heal suggest abundant medicinal uses, and the plant was probably brought to this continent for those uses. It was apparently used for wounds, sore throats, and mouth ailments, although it is not a popular herbal remedy today. Research indicates that it is high in antioxidants and contains substances that may be potentially useful in medicine.

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  Copyright © Anne A. Reid, 1999-2002.
  Photographs copyright © Garry K. Kessler, 1999-2002.