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 Basil is a southern plant not found in early deposits. It is confined to the Northern Temperate Zone in Europe, N. Africa, N. and W. Asia, as far east as Japan, and the Himalayas. It is wild in Canada, and has been introduced into the United States. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, and Thames provinces, but not in Hunts in Anglia, occurring throughout the Severn provinces, but in South Wales not in Cardigan; in N. Wales only in Denbigh, Flint, and Anglesea; in the Trent, Mersey, Humber, Tyne, and Lakes provinces, except in the Isle of Man; in the W. Lowlands; in the E. Lowlands, except in Peebles, Selkirk, Haddington; in the E. Highlands, except in Stirling, N. Aberdeen; and in Dumbarton in the W. Highlands. It is found at 1000 ft. in the Highlands, but is rare in Ireland.
This plant is fairly ubiquitous in its choice of habitat, which is always of an upland character. It is to be found chiefly in rocky districts, being in this way more or less a rock plant. It occurs frequently by the wayside, in ditches or on banks, in dry open pastures, and often in woods, which last is indeed a sure place in which to search for it.
The stem is slender, wavy, usually simple, with distant, downy, close, stalked leaves, egg-shaped to heart-shaped, rather coarsely toothed, and acute.
The flowers are pink, borne in axillary clusters, dense, and branched.
Photo. Messrs. Flatters & Garnett - Wood Basil (clinopodium Vulgare, L.)
The calyx is bristly, striate or finely furrowed, and an involucre of fine bristles is formed. The two upper teeth are connected below into an upper lip. The clusters or whorls in which the flowers are borne are equal, and the upper ones are terminal. The flowers are numerous, and formed on slender flower-stalks.
Wood Basil is usually about 1 ft. high. The flowers are in full bloom in June, July, and August. The plant is perennial, propagated by division.
The stamens and stigma vary considerably in structure. The nectaries and the receptacle for honey are of the usual labiate type. The tube of the corolla is 10-13 mm. long, and the honey fills it up to a height of 3 mm. The inferior lobe of the style forms a broad, lance-shaped lamina, which is turned down, and is not distinctly covered with wart-like knobs. The upper one is narrower and shorter, and varies in size. The stamens may all or partly be useless. The Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris brassicce) and Satyrus visit it. The hermaphrodite flowers may be either large, and the anthers ripe first, or small, when the anthers ripen with the stigma.
The nutlets are free, and fall off around the parent plant, which is thus dispersed by its own agency.
A fungus, Puccinia menthce, attacks the leaves. Two moths, Hadena Chenopodii, Stephensia brunnichella, and a Heteropterous insect, Eysarcoris melanocephalus, are found on Wood Basil.
Clinopodium, Dioscorides, is from the Greek cline, bed, pous, foot. The tufted whorls have been compared to the castor of a bed, and the second name refers to its common occurrence.
This pretty wildflower is called Field, Stone, Wood Basil, Basil-weed, Bed'sfoot, Horse Thyme.
It was regarded as an emblem of the devil in Crete, and placed as a charm on window ledges. It was employed in love matters. It was said to wither in the hands of the impure. Bacon said that if exposed too much to the sun it changed into Wild Thyme, an incipient idea of evolution. In Persia there is a couplet, which, translated, runs thus:
" The basil tuft that waves Its fragrant blossom over graves ".
Essential Specific Characters: 251. Clinopodium vulgare, L. - Stem erect, slender, leaves dentate, ovate, bracts setaceous, forming an involucre, flowers purple, in dense whorls, branched, axillary, calyx straight.