This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
As a marsh plant to a great extent Bugle occurs as we should expect in Interglacial, Late Glacial, and Neolithic deposits. It is found to-day throughout Europe generally. In Great Britain Bugle grows in every county except Peebles, ranging as far north as the Shetlands, and up to 2000 ft. in the Highlands. It is found also in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
This plant is one of the numerous species which gravitate between a station in the open meadows, the woods, the wayside, or the hedgerow. But in each case the habitat is moist and damp, and usually in the shade. In the ride of a wood, where Self-heal also grows luxuriantly, it is especially fine, as well as along the secluded banks of a stream.
The stem is erect, with creeping, lateral stolons, or underground shoots (hence the second Latin name), smooth or roughly hairy, or roughly hairy on alternate faces, smooth on others, and purplish. The leaves are opposite, inversely egg-shaped, narrowed below, the radical leaves on long stalks, blunt, the upper stem-leaves stalkless, oblong, and those on the stolons spoon-shaped. They are smooth and shining, and usually dark green, but may be red below, coloured by anthocyan, which turns the light rays into heat. The red underside helps to retain light.
The flowers are in whorls, in a dense spike which is tapering, the flower-stalks short, with bracts or leaflike organs shorter than the flowers, and often like the flowers purplish-blue, with a metallic tinge. The calyx of 5 segments is blue. The corolla is gaping, with a ring of hairs within the tube protecting the honey. The upper lip is very short. The bracts cover the anthers and stigma.
Photo. C. Allen - Bugle (ajuga Reptans, L.)
Bugle is 6 in. to 1 ft. high. The plant blooms in May and June. It is perennial and propagated by division, and quite deserves a place in the garden.
The flowers are proterogynous, and the stigma is ripe when the flowers open, or homogamous or proterandrous. The lobes spread out, and are covered with wart-like knobs, but as in Teucrium it is protected by the stamens. The flowers are close together, and though the upper lip is short (or absent) the honey is protected from the rain by the intervening bracts. The stamens later separate and the stigma is then accessible. The tube of the corolla is 9 mm. long and 21/2 mm. wide below, at its wider part, where the honey is secreted, the honey being on the side turned to the underlip at the base of the ovary.
The lower lobe of the style is papillose, and rests on short stamens, when young lying close together. Small bees do not force the stamens far apart. The anthers turn the pollen-covered sides upwards and downwards, and are touched by all kinds of visitors. The inferior stamens separating the style are released, and the lower lobe projecting between the anthers is then touched first by a bee with pollen from another flower and cross-pollinated. If bees do not visit the flowers they are self-pollinated by pollen falling on the stigma.
Bugle flowers are visited by the Honey Bee, Bombus, Anthophora, Osmia, Andrena, Halictus, Rhingia, Large White Butterfly (Pieris brassicce), Green-veined White (P. napi), Small White (P. rapce), Brimstone (Rhodocera rhamni), Papilio podalirius, Hesperia alveus, Broad-bordered Bee Hawk Moth (Macroglossa fuciformis), etc.
The nutlets are dispersed by their own agency, and fall to the ground when ripe.
Bugle is distinctly a clay-loving plant, and addicted to a clay soil, being common on the soils of the Lias and Boulder Clay.
The radical leaves and flowerheads are galled by Eriophyes ajugce. A beetle, Meligethes viduatus, and a Heteropterous insect, Monanthia ampliata, are found on Bugle.
Ajuga, Pliny, is supposed to be derived from the Greek aguios, weak in limbs, in reference to an assumed efficacy against gout. The second Latin name refers to its creeping or stoloniferous habit.
Bugle is also called Wood Betony, Brown Bugle, Herb Carpenter, Middle Comfrey, Middle Consound, Dead Men's Bellows, Helfring-wort, Wild Mint, Sickle Wort.
Gerarde says: " It is put in drinks for wounds, and that is the cause why some do commonly say that he that hath bugle and sanicle will scarce vouchsafe the chirurgien a bugle". It was a reputed vulnerary, astringent and cooling.
The name Bugle is said to be a corruption of the late Latin name Bugula, which is akin to bugillo, the classical Latin name for the plant.
Essential Specific Characters: 262. Ajuga reptans, L. - Stem erect, glabrous, with creeping stolons, leaves obovate, entire, upper sessile, lower stalked, flowers purple, in a spike, with bracts below.