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.
Quite a modern flower, so far as is known, Moschatel is found in the North Temperate Zone in Europe, N. Asia, Himalayas, and in east and west North America. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, and Anglia provinces except in Hunts, and the Severn province. It is found in Glamorgan, Brecon, Carmarthen, Pembroke, Montgomery, Carnarvon, Denbigh, Flint, and Anglesea in Wales. It is absent from S. Lincs in the Trent province, occurring in the Mersey, Humber, Tyne, and Lake provinces except in the Isle of Man. In Scotland it occurs in the Lowlands in the E. Lowlands generally, in Peebles, Selkirk, Linlithgow, in the E. Highlands except in Fife, N. Perth; W. Highlands except Mid and N. Ebudes; and in E. and W. Ross and W. Sutherland. It ascends to 3300 ft. in the Highlands.
Moschatel is a clay-loving plant, loving the shade of a clay bank overhung by the bough of a hedgerow bush, or the shelter of a woodland slope where it is protected from the cold blasts of the east wind. Whilst it is a wayside plant its habitat is not so often found there as in fields and woodland districts.
The root is tuberous, consisting of white shiny soboles on subterranean stems. The radical leaves are in threes, with 3 lobes, long-stalked. The stem is stalked, erect, with a single flower-stalk which bears the flowers.
The flowers are terminal, five in a head, the terminal one having 4 petals and 8 stamens, the lateral ones 5 petals and 10 stamens. The flowers are a delicate cream-colour, with wheel-shaped corolla. The fruit is succulent, green at first then red. The flower-stalk is turned back in fruit.
The plant is rarely more than 6 in. high. It flowers in April and May, and is perennial.
The layer of honey is flat and exposed, so long-tongued insects are discouraged; the flowers are greenish-yellow like the rest of the plant. The visitors are chiefly Diptera and Hymenoptera, attracted by the musky smell. A fleshy ring at the base of the stamens contains the honey. The stamens, which mature at the same time, stand at the same level as the stigma and split into two, and the pollen-covered surfaces are turned upwards in the terminal and outwards in the 4 lateral flowers, those turned outwards turning inwards afterward. Insects crawling over the flower touch both anthers and stigma with their feet and tongues, and may cross-pollinate the plant as in the Guelder Rose and Elder. The visitors are Diptera, Borborus; Hymenoptera, Eulophus; Ichneumons, Pezomachus; Coleoptera, Apion.
Photo. Dr. Somerville Hastings - Moschatel (adoxa Moschatellina, L.)
The fruits are succulent drupes, green or red, and may be eaten by birds, but are often deposited around the parent plant by an automatic geotropic movement of the flower-stalk after flowering, whereby the fruit is hidden beneath the leaves.
Puccinia albescens, remarkable for the cluster-cup stage being white not yellow, and P. adoxce are found upon Moschatel.
Adoxa, Linnaeus, is from the Greek, a, privative, doxa, esteem, from its inconspicuous character, and the second Latin name refers to its musk-like perfume. It is called Moschatel, Musk Wood Crowfoot, the last because its leaves resemble those of a Crowfoot.
Essential Specific Characters: 136. Adoxa Moschatellina, L. - Rhizome fleshy with white soboles, leaves radical, on long petioles, triternate, stem-leaves sessile, flowers buff or pink, 4 below, parts in fives, in a whorl, and 1 above, parts in fours, fruit deflexed on fruit-stalk, scarlet.