Astrantia major cultivar

Today’s entry is written by Claire. She writes:

I love this photograph of Astrantia major (original) that Marie Viljoen (Marie Viljoen@Flickr) of Brooklyn, New York provided us via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated, Marie!

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.

Astrantia major cultivar

5 responses to “Astrantia major cultivar”

  1. Ann Kent

    Thank you for the image and links. In my garden, in Vancouver, BC, masterwort is a “cut and come again” flower and much beloved by the elders with whom I work; perhaps because a slight breeze or draft makes the pretty heads dance. From June through to early October we tuck them into little posies for bedside tables. Ann Kent.

  2. Emma

    An especially beautiful photograph. I’ve always had a great fondness for unbels.

  3. Marie

    I’m so pleased you were able to use my picture. Here is a link to the post about the garden where this astrantia grows, the Battery Conservancy at the southern tip of Manhattan, designed by Piet Oudolf. More pictures there…
    http://66squarefeet.blogspot.com/2010/10/battery-conservancy-garden-again.html

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    when you take a flower in your hand and really look at it , its your
    world for the moment,i want to give that world to someone else
    georgina o’keeffe american artist
    marie i was born in new jersey elizabeth now florida the ferry boat
    was good to see again many a ride and now painted in bright colours
    google has a lot of images lovely flower to put beside ones bed how nice ann
    thank you claire

  5. Ann Pearson

    I love astrantia but am surprised to hear of it being used in a bedside posy as it seems to me and other friends to have a quite disagreeable odour (wet dog or worse). Has no one else noticed this?
    I have a happy memory of seeing a whole meadow full of astrantia and other wild flowers in central Poland. It’s always so satisfying to discover a plant you’ve only known in gardens in its natural habitat.

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