Toadflax, Ivy-Leaved

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Toadflax, Ivy-Leaved

Botanical Name: Linaria cymbalaria
Family: N.O. Scrophulariaceae

Synonyms: Ivywort. Aaron's Beard. Climbing Sailor. Creeping Jenny. Mother of Millions. Mother of Thousands. Thousand Flower. Oxford-weed. Pedlar's Basket. Pennywort. Rabbits. Roving Jenny. Wandering Jew.
Part Used: Herb.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Mill.) (Linaria Cymbalaria). This little trailing plant, with ivylike leaves and small lilac flowers, was not originally a British plant, but a native of the Mediterranean region, but it has become naturalized over almost the whole of Europe, from Holland southwards, except in Turkey, and is now thoroughly at home in England, having first been introduced into the Chelsea Botanic Gardens from Italy.

It is mostly found near houses, on old garden walls, where it hangs down from the interstices between the stones, the roots being thin and fibrous, and finding their way into crevices The stems are purple in colour and very numerous, slender and stringy, rooting at intervals and very long, growing to a length of 2 or 3 feet.

Description: The ivy-like leaves, some what thick in texture, and smooth, are cutup into five prominent, rounded lobes or divisions, and are on long stalks. The backs of the leaves are of a reddish-purple. The flower-stalks, about equal in length to the leaf-stalks, arise singly from the axils of the leaves and bear small flowers similar in form to those of the common Toadflax, of a delicate lilac colour, the palate being bright yellow and each blossom ending in a spur, which in this case is only as long as the calyx. Before fertilization each flower pushes itself out into the light and sun, standing erect, but when the seeds are mature, it bends downward, buries the capsule in the dark crannies between the stones on which it grows, the seeds being thus dispersed by direct action of the plant itself.

This little Toadflax is in flower from May right up to November, and is visited only by bees. It has become a favourite garden flower for planting on rockeries.

Gerard illustrates the plant in his Herbal, springing from brickwork, but the block of his illustration was incorrectly placed upside down, so that the plant instead of being represented as growing downwards, stands erect. Parkinson, in 1640, also figures this plant in the same way, and names it Cymbalaria hederacea.

In Italy it is the 'plant of the Madonna.'

Medicinal Action and Uses: The Ivy-leaved Toadflax has anti-scorbutic properties, and has been eaten as a salad in southern Europe, being acrid and pungent like Cress.

It is reported to have been successfully administered in India for diabetes.

The flowers yield a clear but not permanent yellow dye.