Orlaya grandiflora, also known as white laceflower, is in the Apiaceae (carrot family). Along with attractive flowers and intriguing fruit, the species provides insight into second century grain shipments. Recent research shows it may also help prevent degenerative and pathological diseases.
Most photos of Orlaya grandiflora online or on seed packages look quite a bit different from the one featured today. The species is a popular ornamental plant in gardens for its easy upkeep, hardiness, and beautiful white flowers. Distributed in the Mediterranean regions of Europe and northern Africa, it typically grows in dry fields and slopes. French and Swiss websites give additional botanical details about the species.
A 1992 publication of research by Pals & Tom discussed (in part) the presence of Orlaya grandiflora in an ancient grain shipment from a sunken ship. The cargo ship is believed to have sunk in The Rhine at the end of the second century near the remnants of a Roman fort in The Netherlands, near the northern extent of the Roman Empire in continental Europe. While the vessel’s main cargo was Triticum dicoccum (emmer wheat), 13 mericarps from Orlaya grandiflora were found, as well as pollen grains. It was one of three large-seeded “weed” species found in the grain shipment. The composition of the weed species present in the shipment (both by presence and absence), led the authors to conclude that the wheat likely originated from Belgium. As an aside, the overall quality of the shipment was deemed to be quite low, with evidence of agricultural pests and mold–perhaps not uncommon in those days.
Research done by Valyova et al. in 2015 investigated the chemical composition of Aegopodium podagraria and Orlaya grandiflora. The study found that both species contained high levels of natural antioxidants. The authors note that Orlaya grandiflora is known to possess a laxative effect, but aside from that its potential medicinal properties had barely been studied. Naturally-occurring antioxidants in plants can help humans by preventing oxidative damage in cells, potentially preventing medical conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. The authors conclude with advising that further studies should be performed on Orlaya grandiflora as a potential medical treatment.
As a photographical aside, I would argue that this picture has the potential to tell more of a story than one of Orlaya grandiflora in full bloom. With the help of great camera position and focal length, this photo captures amazing details that would often be overlooked. It tells a tale of the process and the end result of Orlaya grandiflora‘s reproductive cycle; it has done its job of readying seed for the next year. It also displays how once elegant white flowers now take on a dried rustic form, resembling more closely Venus flytraps than any typical flower.