Last Friday, the UBC Horticulture Training Program students were treated to a lecture about Eurasian medicinal plants and a tour of the physic garden with Ukrainian botanical pharmacologist Anastasiia Dushyna. Pulicaria dysenterica was not one of the plants highlighted on the tour, but it likely would have been, had we been growing it in the Garden.
Known as common fleabane or meadow false fleabane, the base of its common names are an echo of the generic name. The Flora of North America entry for Pulicaria provides the derivation: “[Latin pulex, flea, and -aria, pertaining to; alluding to use of the plants as flea repellent]”. Several species within this genus of 70 or so species are indeed known to have insecticidal properties, purportedly as incense (via Wikipedia). I’ve only found a few references to Pulicaria dysenterica being used for this purpose, but there are many references to this species being used as a treatment for dysentery and external wounds and bruises.
Pulicaria dysenterica is widely distributed across Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. As noted in the Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, Pulicaria dysenterica is a “herb of damp or wet, open habitats including marshy places, water- and fen-meadows, tall-herb fens, by rivers, streams, canals and ditches, in dune-slacks, wet hollows and seepages on sea-cliffs, damp woodland rides and roadside verges”.
Additional images are available from the Flora van Nederland.