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.
Wood Betony is found throughout the Temperate Northern Zone in Europe, N. Africa, and W. Siberia, but has not been met with in early deposits. In Great Britain it grows in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, Anglia, and Severn provinces; in S. Wales generally except in Radnor; in N. Wales generally except in Montgomery, Merioneth; throughout the Trent province, Mersey, Humber, Tyne, and Lakes provinces except the Isle of Man; in the West Lowlands except Peebles, Selkirk, Haddington; and in Mid and E. Perth; in E. Highlands, in the N. Ebudes, in the W. Highlands. It ranges thus from Skye and Ross southwards, but it is rare in Scotland and Ireland. In Northumberland it is found at 1200 ft.
The name Wood Betony indicates the chief habitat of this species. It certainly loves the shade and is at home in woods, but it is frequent by the roadside, and is also found on heaths and commons with Grassy Stitchwort, Tormentil, Furze, etc.
The stem is erect, simple, square, with blunt angles, rough, with rigid bristles, turned back, and bent. The radical leaves are on long leaf-stalks, oblong, heart-shaped, scalloped, blunt, sparsely hairy, the stem-leaves opposite, narrower, saw-like, turned back, with a turned-back margin.
The flowers are in terminal spikes, oblong, purple, stalkless, in whorls, and the bracts or leaflike organs are as long as the calyx, which is shaggy within, with long teeth. The corolla has a projecting tube, incurved below. The nutlets (4) are three-sided and smooth. Wood Betony is 2 ft. high. The flowers bloom in July and August.
The plant is perennial and propagated by division.
The flowers are proteran-drous, that is, the anthers ripen first, or they may be homo-gamous, the stigmas ripening at the same time. The pistil is short at first but lengthens when the anthers have opened. The tube of the corolla is 7 mm. long, smooth inside where the honey is secreted, lined above with erect hairs. The corolla, where included in the calyx, is narrow, directed obliquely upwards, but horizontal beyond the calyx, and is constantly 2 mm. wide, the under lip is divided into three half-way, acting as an alighting place, and the tip is narrowed. The tube is short, so that the entrance is not wide at the mouth, and the tube is curved like a bee's proboscis. The anthers bearing white beads on their surface open when the flower expands, the stigmas are between them and just behind the short anthers. The divisions of the style are widely spreading, and covered with warts. The style lengthens the wider the anthers spread, and overtops the shorter ones in the process, becoming smeared with pollen, but at length exceeds them, and is first touched by visitors with pollen from another flower, which is prepotent over its own pollen, though it can effectively pollinate itself.
The flowers are visited by Volucella bombylans, Eristalis horticola, Zygcena lonicerce.
Photo. Dr. Somerville Hastings - Wood Betony (stachys Officinalis, Trev.)
The blunt-shaped nutlets fall free around the parent plant when ripe.
Wood Betony is a humus-loving plant requiring a humus soil, and grows only on heaths or in woods where this is to be obtained.
Peronospora lamii and Puccinia betonicce attack Wood Betony.
Two moths, Coleophora wocksella, Idcea strigellaria, feed on it.
Stachys, Dioscorides, is Greek for spike or ear, and the second name (Latin) refers to its use in medicine.
This plant is called Betayne, Betony, Wood Betony, Bidney, Bishopswort, Wild Hop, Vetoyn.
According to superstition it averted witchcraft. It was reputed to have great medicinal properties, and there was an old saw which recommended a person to "sell his coat and buy betony". It was used to cure consumption and lung disease. It has the power of causing intoxication, and when freshly dried the leaves cause sneezing. The roots are bitter and nauseous, cause vomiting and purging.
Dye of a fine dark yellow colour for wool has been obtained from Betony. The leaves have a bitter taste.
Essential Specific Characters: 256. Stachys officinalis, Trev. - Stem erect, leaves radical, ovate-cordate, below crenate, petiolate, upper lanceolate-acute, subsessile, flowers purple, in a terminal dense spike, calyx subglabrous. The nuts are blunt.