This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
1. Pellitory-of-the-Wall (Parietaria ramiflora, Moench). 2. Silky Wind Grass (Apera Spica-venti, Beauv.). 3. Silvery Hair Grass (Aira caryophyllea, L.). 4. Flat-stalked Poa (Poa compressa, L.). 5. Sand Fescue (Festuca Myuros, L.).
The second Latin name refers to a supposed preference for arable land, but this should be applied rather to V. agrestis.
The plant is called Corn Speedwell, which is equally a misnomer.
This species is distinguished from V. agrestis by its erect stem, nearly stalkless flowers, smaller seed capsules, forming a spike when ripe.
Essential Specific Characters: 235. Veronica arvensis, L. - Stem erect, leaves cordate, crenate, lower petioled, upper bract-like, flowers in a terminal, lax, spiked raceme, pale-blue, tube of corolla short, capsule obcordate, seeds flat.
Pellitory-of-the-Wall (Parietaria ramiflora, Moench)
This is a rupestral plant, not found earlier than the present day, ranging in the N. Temperate Zone in Europe, N. Africa, and Western Asia. In Great Britain it is not found in the Isle of Man or the following Scottish counties: Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Roxburgh, Linlithgow, and in the E. Highlands, not in Fife or S. Perth, Forfar, not in W. Highlands, N. Highlands, Northern Isles, except as an escape, but from Ross southward elsewhere. It is a native of Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Pellitory-of-the-Wall is fond of growing on old walls, such as those of ruins, or on walls generally. A favourite habitat is the tower of a church. It may be found also in hedge-banks, but it is largely rupestral. Clustering round the base of a tower in clumps the stems are numerous, erect, brittle, herbaceous, reddish, branched, downy, rounded, finely furrowed, with curled hairs, the branches alternate, spreading. The leaves are hairy, oblong, lance-shaped, with a long point each end, with transparent dots on slender leaf-stalks.
The flowers are in the axils of the leaves, small, bisexual, in an involucre of 3-6 lobes, and stiffly hairy and stalkless. The calyx is flat or bell-shaped, or tubular, hairy, erect. There is no corolla. The fruit is small and enclosed in the perianth, the seed being single.
Pellitory-of-the-Wall is 1-2 ft. high. Flowers may be found any time between July and September. This is a deciduous, herbaceous, perennial plant, propagated by division.
The flowers are generally proterogynous, and when so mainly hermaphrodite, or of three forms - complete, male, and female - the stamens develop after the stigma has protruded from the bud, and they explode as in the Nettle, when the stigma cannot be pollinated, and the style has dropped. The flowers are anemophilous. The male flowers arc like those of the Nettle, the female with a brush-like stigma and 4-lobed.
The fruits arc small, and fall when ripe at once to the ground, or are blown away to a distance by the wind.
This is a rock plant, growing on rocks or walls, or arenophilous on a sand soil.
Two beetles, Throscus carinifrons and T. elateroides, and a moth, Simathis fabriciana, feed on it.
Parietaria, Pliny, is from the Latin paries, a wall, from which came perritory, the r's being changed into l's, and the old second Latin name officinalis refers to its use as a medicine; ramifora refers to the flowers being on the stem or branches.
Photo. Dr. Somerville Hastings - Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria ramiflora, Moench)
Pellitory-of-the-Wall is also called Billie Beatie, Hammerwort, Lichwort, Parietary, Peletir, Peniterry, Wallwort. As to the name Peniterry, we read of "a weed called locally at least, Peniterry, to which the suddenly terrified (schoolboy) idler might run in his need, grasping it hard and threateningly and repeating the following ' Words of Power':
" ' Peniterry, Peniterry, that grows by the wall, Save me from a whipping, or 1 pull you roots and all."
The name Lichwort was applied because "it grows neere to old wals in the moist corners of churches and stone buildings", according to Gerarde. The plant was used in mediaeval times for broken limbs and tightness of the chest. It was considered diuretic and used for dropsy. It was laid in corn in granaries to drive away weevils.
Essential Specific Characters: 280. Parietaria ramiflora, Moench. - Stem erect, pinkish, hairy, tufted, leaves lanceolate, elliptic, flowers green or red, in clusters in the axils, filaments elastic.