Today’s entry is written by Claire. She writes:
This beautiful plant, Astrantia major, or great masterwort, comes from the umbel family (Apiaceae) to which some of my favourite edibles also belong: carrot, celery and parsley. When I first saw this photograph, I didn’t look too closely and believed this flower was from the Asteraceae (or sunflower family). This was because of the look of the ray-like parts emerging from the base of each inflorescence. In fact, these are actually involucres (a type of bract) and not ray florets. The tiny flowers are organized in a small umbel (think “upside-down umbrella”); they emerge from a common node with all the pedicels (or flower stems) of the same length.
Astrantia major is a perennial native to southern and central Europe. The flowers are pollinated mostly by bees and butterflies. The species and its cultivars are becoming extremely popular as an ornamental in gardens; the Royal Horticultural Society has eighty entries for Astrantia in cultivation, with the large majority of these being cultivars of Astrantia major. I highly recommend browsing through more images of Astrantia major as the species and its cultivars have a wide array of colours, ranging from white and pink to deep red. The species is also known for its aromatic roots that contain many compounds such as tannins and coumarins, producing a very distinct odor and taste. Stiegenhaushof, a website by Martin Fankhauser, explains how the root of Astrantia major can be used to flavour spirits! It has a nice blurb on some of its characteristics if you are interested.