This common plant is an ancient one, having been found in Preglacial, Early Glacial, Interglacial, Late Glacial, and Neolithic deposits.

It is a Northern Temperate and Arctic Zone plant found in Arctic Europe, N. and W. Asia. In Great Britain it is found throughout the Peninsula province, in Wilts and Dorset in the Channel province, in the Thames province not in Kent or Essex, throughout Anglia, Severn, S. Wales and Montgomery, Carnarvon, Anglesea, and Flint, in N. Wales, in the Trent, and in the Mersey province except in Mid Lanes, Humber province, Tyne and Lakes provinces except in the Isle of Man, in the whole of the West Lowlands except Renfrew and Lanark, and in Roxburgh, Berwick, and Forfar. It is found in Yorkshire at 1500 ft. It is native in W. and N. Ireland and the Channel Islands.

Great Burnet, with its tall purple flowerheads, is a conspicuous plant in most meadows laid to grass in the summer. In meadows, fields, and pastures it grows side by side with Yellow Rattle, Sorrel, Saw-wort, Field Scabious, Ox-eye Daisy, etc.

Quite a familiar sight in the meadows in summer, the tall erect stems of the Great Burnet are branched, with egg-shaped, half-heart-shaped leaflets, the leaves smooth, the lobes one each side of the common stalk, and distant or few.

Deep purplish-brown, the heads of flower are conspicuous amid the green sea of wild flowers and grasses in a meadow. The spike is egg-shaped or oblong, with calyx and stamens of the same length, the latter not shorter than the sepaloid calyx, which is smooth. In fruit the calyx is four-winged in the upper part.

Two to three feet is the height of this species. It flowers from June to August. A deciduous, herbaceous perennial, it is propagated by means of seeds.

The flower has no corolla, and the calyx does duty for petals. This in the lowest part (and the middle belongs to the tube of the receptacle) surrounds the ovary, and the middle part, a fleshy ring round the base of the style, secretes honey, while the upper part spreads out into four dark-purple, sepal-like lobes. The anthers and stigmas develop together. The plant is monoecious, the sexes being on the same plant. The flowers are pollinated by insects, unlike P. sanguisorba, though the stigma is divided as in a wind-pollinated flower, and the character is doubtless inherited from a wind-pollinated ancestor resembling Poterium.

The fruit is dispersed by wind, the calyx is four-winged and encloses the achenes or fruits, helping to disperse them by the wind.

Being addicted to a sand soil it is sand-loving, or clay-loving, and found on a clay soil, but it usually grows on sandy loam.

Burnet leaf-spot, Xenedochus carbonarius, is parasitic upon it.

The moths, Brown Tail Moth (Eupristes chrysorrhaea), Reddish Buff (Acosmetia caliginosa), Orthosia gracilis feed on it.

Photo. Flatters & Garnett Great Burnet {Poterium officinale, A. Gray) - The moths, Brown Tail Moth (Eupristes chrysorrhaea), Reddish Buff (Acosmetia caliginosa), Orthosia gracilis feed on it.

The second Latin name refers to its use in medicine. It is cultivated as a fodder plant abroad. In early times it was a cure for wounds, being bitter.

Essential Specific Characters: 103. Poterium officinale, A. Gray. - Stem erect, branching above, leaves few, pinnate, smooth, leaflets 3-5 pairs, serrate, flowers purple in oblong head, calyx as long" as filaments, fruit of 2 achenes, oblong, winged above.