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 plant is not an ancient one apparently, though its range to-day is that of the northern plants, being found in the N. Temperate and Arctic Zones in Arctic Europe, and W. Asia. It is introduced in North America. In Great Britain it is absent from Cardigan, Stirling, N. Perth, Kincardine, Aberdeen, Easterness, W. Highlands, except Main Argyle, Dumbarton, Clyde Islands, and it does not grow in the N. Highlands or the Northern Islands. It is found in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Common Toadflax is found in great abundance on waste ground, and is especially abundant wherever ballast has been thrown down, as on railway banks, at stations, and in quarries, docks, and similar places. It grows profusely also in the south of England on dry, open ground.
This showy, erect plant is leafy, with a grass-like habit, smooth and bluish-green below. The leaves are linear-lance-shaped, acute, rather close, not whorled. The stems are numerous, downy, and glandular above.
The general shape of the corolla is that of a Snapdragon, with a spur below, and the flowers are large, yellow, with an orange palate, in a raceme, overlapping, terminal. The sepals are ovate-lance-shaped, the upper one longest. The corolla is gaping, with the spur parallel to the tube, and blunt, the upper lip bifid, divided into two nearly to the base, with turned-back lobes, the lower lip trifid, divided nearly to the base. The anther-stalks are white, the anthers yellow. There are traces of a posterior stamen. The seeds are brown or black, rounded, notched at the base, flattened at the margin, winged, and netted. Common Toadflax is about 1 ft. high, and the flowers are in bloom from June to September, perennial, reproduced by seed or division of roots, and worth cultivating.
The flower has a long spur, 10-13 mm. long, and is like a closed vessel. The honey is protected by hairs. It is secreted by the base of the ovary, which is swollen in front, opposite the lower lip. The honey collects in a groove which leads to the tip of the spur, filling it up to 5-6 mm., the hairs being arranged between the nectary and the two anterior stamens. The sides of the inferior stamens are clothed with pointed processes at the base, and honey is thus only reached by long-lipped insects, hairs bordering the groove protecting the honey and keeping it in position. The closing of the swollen lower lip excludes beetles from the spur. The palate of the lower lip is orange, and acts as a path-finder, the insect depressing it, and pushing its head within the wide part of the spur, touching the anther and stigma with its back. These mature together, the stigma being between the short and long stamens, and a bee causes both self- and cross-pollination, while the plant can also pollinate itself. It is visited by the Honey Bee, Bombus, Megachile, Os-mia, Anthidium, An-drena, and several For-micidae.
The capsule opens by several valves above, and the seeds are liberated so that they fall out near the parent stem, or are jerked out or blown away by the wind. The outer cells contract most, the wall curves outwards, and the upper end of the capsule opens.
Toadflax is galled by Diplosis linariae and Gymnetron collinus, G. noctis. Other beetles, Brachypterus gravidis, Meligethes obscurus, and Chrysomela marginalis, are also found on it; also the moths Striped Hawk Moth (Deilephila livornica), Broom Moth (Calophasia linariae), Toadflax Pug (Hadena pisi), Beautiful Pug (Eupithecia linariata), and Marbled Clover (Heliothis dipsaceus), a Heteropterous insect, Lopus flavomarginatus.
The second Latin name indicates its common occurrence. It is called Bride-weed, Butter-and-Eggs, Buttered Haycocks, Chopt Eggs, Churnstaff, Doggies, Dragon-bushes, Eggs-and-bacon, Eggs-and-butter, Eggs-and-collops, Toad, Wild and Yellow Toad Flax, Flax-weed, Gallwort, Larkspur, Lion's Mouth, Monkey Flower, Pattens-and-clogs, Rabbits, Snapdragon, Yellow or Yaller Rod. The name Snap Dragon is in vogue and explained because the flowers are "fashioned like a frog's mouth, or rather a dragon's mouth; from whence the women have taken the name Snap Dragon". Coles says it was called Toadflax "because Toads will sometimes shelter themselves amongst the branches of it". Gallwort was applied because it is bitter and used "against the flowing of the gall in cattell".
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Common Toadflax (Linaria Vulgaris, Mill.)
It was supposed to avert witchcraft. Because it was considered to be associated with the evil one it was called Devil's Ribbon. It was said to possess the power of destroying charms. It was also supposed to be capable of "cleansing the skin wonderfully of all sorts of deformity". It is bitter and acid, and has been used in dropsical cases and for sore eyes. Piles have been cured by ointment made from it. In Sweden people used to boil the plant in milk to kill flies with the infusion made from it.
Essential Specific Characters:229. Linaria vulgaris, Mill. - Stem erect, branched, glabrous, leaves linear-lanceolate, flowers yellow, terminal, in dense racemes, sepals ovate, acute, glabrous.