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.
South of Denmark in Europe, N. Africa, N. and W. Asia, eastward to the Himalayas, marks the present range of this species in the N. Temperate Zone. It has not been found in any early deposits. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, Anglia, and Severn provinces except in Monmouth, and in S. Wales not in Brecon or Radnor, but throughout the whole of N. Wales; and in the Trent and Mersey provinces, except in Mid Lancs; in the Humber, Tyne, Lakes provinces (in the last only in Westmorland); in W. Lowlands, except Renfrew and Lanark; and in Berwick and Edinburgh. It is found in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Water Figwort (Scrophularia Aquatica, L.)
Water Figwort is typically an aquatic plant growing by the side of tracts of water, being rooted in the mud, and a thorough hygrophyte. It is to be found by the sides of most rivers, streams, and other types of running water. It also frequents still waters, such as lakes, ponds, pools, and even ditches by the roadside. It is seldom found away from water.
Fond of moist conditions, the plant has a tall, erect stem, square in section, and winged, branched, smooth, and purplish. The leaves are stalked, opposite, running down the stem, heart-shaped below, scalloped, the teeth larger upwards. The branches are opposite, with bracts below the flower-stalks, which are lateral.
The flowers are brownish-red, and in panicles or corymbose cymes, which are terminal, dense, and bear numerous flowers. The lobes of the calyx are less than the corolla, and edged with a membrane, brown and torn. The corolla is large and inflated, the upper lip divided into two nearly to the base, and green below. The flower is scented and attractive to wasps. The capsule is bilocular, subrotund, with many brownish seeds.
Water Figwort grows to a height of 4 ft. It flowers in May, June, July. The plant is a herbaceous perennial propagated by division, the roots being white and fibrous.
The floral mechanism resembles that of S. nodosa, and it is chiefly visited by wasps. The anthers touch the abdomen of the insect. The fifth stamen is useless, with no anther, and is like a small black scalelike appendage on the upper wall or lip of the corolla, and probably indicates a reversion to an ancestral type, or a primitive structure. The corolla is short (5 mm.) but wide and globular, and at its base on the superior side two large drops of honey may be seen secreted at the yellow base of the ovary. The stigma at first projects, and is mature before the anthers. Each stage lasts two days. Both lie on the lower side of the flower. Wasps cling to the outside below the flower, and insert the head between the upper and lower lobes of the corolla. In young flowers they touch the stigma with the front, in older flowers with the underside of the head, and pollen of young plants is transferred to stigmas of older flowers. The style bends down after flowering and pollination. Wasps are the chief visitors in this country. Bees also visit it in Illinois. The corolla in colour resembles the wasp's markings. The capsule opens by dividing into two valves, and the seed then falls around the parent plant.
Water Betony is a sand plant and a clay-loving plant, being found on sand soil or clay soil or sandy loam.
A fungus, Pcronospora sordida, attacks the leaves.
Two beetles, Longitarsus agilis, L. rutilus; a wasp, Vespa syl-vestris, and Allantus scrophula;, and three moths, Frosted Orange (Gortyna flavago), Depressaria liturella, Water Betony (Cucullia scrophulariae), are found upon Figwort.
Scrophularia, Brunfels, is from scrofula or scrophula, for which it was a reputed cure; and the second Latin name refers to its semi-aquatic habitat. Figwort was applied because it was supposed to be a cure for the disease ficus by the Doctrine of Signatures.
Brook or Water Betony, Bishop-leaves, Broomwort, Brownwort, Bullwort, Stinking Christopher, Cressel, Cressil, Crowdy-Kit, Fiddles, Fiddlewood, Figwort, Huntsman's Cap, Poor Man's Salve, Stinking Roger, are the common names for this handsome semi-aquatic plant.
Because the stalks are coloured it was called Brownwort. It is called Fiddlewood because the stems are stripped by children of their leaves and scraped across each other fiddle-fashion to produce a squeaking sound.
The plant is purgative in action. It was from the tuberous roots of S. nodosa that the notion arose that this plant (like the other) was a cure for scrofula. At the siege of Rochelle (1628) the French were reduced to eating the roots.
Essential Specific Characters:231. Scrophularia aqtiatica, L. - Stem tall, erect, quadrangular, 4-winged, leaves cordate, oblong, crenate, serrate, bracts linear, blunt, flowers, 1-15, purple, in a corymbose cyme, with reniform staminodes, calyx with 5 rounded lobes.