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 Sanicle is widely dispersed, its recent distribution being Europe and N. Africa. It is found in all the counties of Great Britain except Peebles, the Orkney and Shetland Islands. In the North of England it has been found to ascend to altitudes of considerably over 1000 ft.
Sanicle is a clay-loving plant, fond of the shade of woods, and growing under trees in the moist depths of a wood, or the more open shelter of copses on the side of a hill. In such places it is accompanied by Wood Anemone, Goldielocks, Wood-sorrel, Primrose, Wood Forget-me-not, Bluebell, and many other umbrageous species.
There is scarcely anything, but its umbels of flowers and seed, to suggest the umbelliferous affinity of this plant. It is an erect, not very tall, plant, with leaves divided into lobes to the middle, 3- or 5-lobed, with numerous fine-pointed teeth. Most of the leaves arise from the base of the stem, in the manner of celery, but are more widely spreading. The leaves are dark green and glossy, with a dark-brown or reddish tinge.
The flowers are pink or white, and are arranged not strictly in an umbel but a panicle, the female florets being unstalked, the outer male stalked. The umbels are irregular with few rays. The fruit is surrounded by turned-back hooked bristles, the styles being persistent.
The plant is about 1 foot in height. Flowers can be found in June and July. Sanicle is a perennial plant capable of division by the roots.
The plant is andromoncecious, i.e. the flower is hermaphrodite, and there are also male flowers. There are 1-3 proterandrous hermaphrodite florets in the centre of each umbel, which are surrounded by 10-20 male florets which develop later. Male flowers were found in the centre of the umbels by Schulze. The complete flowers are pro-terogynous, the stigma ripening first. The older flowers in the centre are complete. The long stigmas touch the anthers of the surrounding florets. Both resemble Astrantia major. Where the umbels are simple, the florets form so closely packed a surface that the petals remain rolled up in the middle of the flower and hairs protect the honey from the rain. They make the flower less easily reached by insects and less conspicuous. Flies and beetles are the chief visitors.
The fruits are hooked, and assisted in their dispersal by catching in the wool or hair of passing animals. Sanicle is a clay - loving plant addicted to a clay soil, growing in woods and shady places or hollows where clay is formed on granitic, volcanic, and later Liassic and other rock soils.
A fungus Puccinia Saniculce commonly attacks it. No insects are known to feed upon it.
Sanicula, Brunfels, is from the Latin sanus, healthy, because of the healing properties formerly attributed to the plant. The second Latin name is merely Latin for European, referring to its range.
Photo. C. A. Allen. - Sanicle (sanicula Europcea, L.)
This plant is called Wood March, Sanicle, Wood Sanicle, Self-Heal Sanicle.
Sanicle used to be regarded as a powerful vulnerary, and is very acrimonious like all Umbelliferae, but it is not employed as a drug to-day.
Essential Specific Characters: 123. Sanicula europcea, L. - Stem erect, smooth, shiny, radical leaves petiolate, palmate, glossy, lobed, trifid, serrate, flowers pinkish-white, in a panicle, fruit ovate, with hooked bristles.