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.
This rather local plant is one of the southern forms which are found in the North Temperate Zone, in Europe south of Denmark, N. Africa, and Western Asia. It is not found in any ancient deposits. In Great Britain it grows in the Peninsula and Channel provinces, except in W. Sussex; in the Thames, Anglia, Severn provinces; in S. Wales in Glamorgan, Carmarthen, Pembroke; in N. Wales in Carnarvon, Denbigh, Flint, Anglesea; in the Trent province, except in Derby; in the Mersey province, except in S. Lancs; in the Humber and Tyne provinces; and in Scotland in Ayr, Berwick, Edinburgh, Fife, Stirling, Forfar, E. Ross. It is found also in Ireland.
Much used as an eye salve at one time, there is no doubt that Clary is found in some of its localities owing to this former use to which it was put, as it grows in waste places in many cases. But it is also found on dry pastures on hilly ground, where it is much more probably native.
Clary is a tall, erect, square-stemmed, branched plant, growing in small clumps. The leaves are oblong, acute, coarsely toothed, wavy, veined, smooth, and the radical leaves are stalked, the stem-leaves stalkless and oblong. The plant is hairy above, smooth below.
Of a deep-blue colour, the flowers are small, with 6 flowers in a whorl, with long, acute bracts or leaflike organs, shorter than the flowers, turned back. The calyx is equal to the tube of the corolla, which is small, with an emarginate tube, and a broad lower lip, trifid, or divided into three nearly to the base. The upper, concave, is turned down. The calyx is bell-shaped with recurved edges. The nutlets (4) are black and round.
Clary is usually about 2 ft. high. It flowers in May and June.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Clary (Salvia Verbenaca, L.)
The plant is perennial, propagated by division, and quite worth a place in gardens.
To protect the honey from the rain and flies the tube of the corolla is lined with hairs. The upper lip is erect, flattened; the lower, trifid, divided into three nearly to the base, serves as an alighting place, the lateral lobes spreading. There are 2 stamens with short anther-stalks jointed with the slender swollen connective which carries one perfect, one immature anther-cell. There is a large anterior honey-gland. The style is ascending, swollen, and trifid. A bee inserting its head in the mouth of the flower touches the inner end of the anther, and raising it acts as a lever and causes the outer to rub its back with pollen as the stamens stand across the mouth of the flower.
The flower is proterandrous, the anthers ripening first. The style bends down and the stigma is brought within touch of insect visitors. Cleistogamic flowers also occur.
The 3-angled nutlets fall out around the parent plant when ripe, and are aided by the wind in dispersal.
A mould fungus, or Peronospora lamii, attacks it.
Salvia, Pliny, is from the Latin for sage, from salvus, safe; Ver-benaca is from Verbena, because it is like verbena in habit.
Clary is also called Christ's Eye, Wild Clary, Clear-eye, Wild Clear-eye, Eyeseeds, Oculus-Christi. The first name was given because it cures (so it was believed) diseases of the eye. Eyeseeds was a name given because it was "A plant whose seeds if blown into the eye are said to remove bits of dust, cinders, or insects that may be lodged there".
Gerarde says: "The seede put whole into the eyes clenseth and purgeth them exceedingly from waterish humours, rednesse, inflama-tion, and divers other maladies or all that happen unto the eies, and taketh away the paine and smarting thereof, especially being put into the eies one seede at a time, and no more, which is a general medicine, in Cheshire and other Counties there about knowne of all, and used with good successe". When bruised it is strong-smelling and unpleasant. It is very aromatic. The eye salve is prepared from a mucilage.
Essential Specific Characters:252. Salvia Verbenaca, L. - Stem erect, upper leaves cordate, sessile, radical, petioled, sinuous, crenate, wrinkled, flowers small purple, in terminal whorled spikes, 6, tube of corolla equal to calyx, with 2 acute bracts below.