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Common Figwort

Scrophularia nodosa

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Scrophulariaceae (Figwort)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
70 centimetres tall
Gardens, hedgerows, meadows, riversides, wasteland, waterside, woodland.

Purple, 5 petals
Small, purple and brown, broader than long, on square stems. Sepals lobed with a light border.
Green, globular but tapering into a sharp tip.
Leaves appear together, opposite one another along the square-stalked, erect stem. They are triangular, pointed and have forward-pointing, sharp-toothed margins. Hairless and shiny. Sometimes the leaves are bronze. Differs from Water Figwort in that its teeth are pointed and Water Figwort has rounded leaves.
Leaves smell very unpleasant when crushed. The smell is stronger than that of Water Figwort.
Other Names:
Carpenter's Square, Great Pilewort, Heal-all, Heal-all Scrofula Plant, Healing Herb, Kernelwort, Knotted Figwort, Knotted Figwort, Murrain Grass, Nodding Figwort, Rosenoble, Scrofula Plant, Square-stalk, Throatwort, Woodland Figwort, Woods Figwort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Scrophularia nodosa is a species of flowering plant in the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae). It is also known as common figwort, knotted figwort, or healing herb. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America, and can be found growing in damp, shady areas such as along streams and in woodlands.

The plant has a tall, sturdy stem and large leaves that are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem. The flowers are small, dark purple or brownish-purple, and arranged in spikes at the top of the stem. The plant typically flowers between July and September.

Scrophularia nodosa has a long history of medicinal use. The plant was traditionally used to treat a wide range of ailments, including skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma, and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

It have been studied and showed some promising results in wound healing, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor activities. However, more research is needed to confirm its therapeutic efficacy and safety, and it is not recommended to self-medicate with Scrophularia nodosa without consulting a healthcare professional.

In addition to its medicinal uses, the plant is also sometimes grown for ornamental purposes, due to its attractive flowers and rugged appearance. It is also a popular choice for use in wildflower gardens and naturalized settings.


Common Figwort, also known as Scrophularia nodosa, is a plant species that is native to Europe and Asia. It belongs to the family Scrophulariaceae and is also commonly referred to as “knotted figwort”. The plant is a perennial herb and can grow up to 1.5 meters tall. The stem of the plant is square and hairy, and the leaves are arranged in an opposite pattern, with serrated edges and a pointed tip.

The flowers of Common Figwort are small, dark red, and arranged in clusters at the top of the stem. They bloom from June to September and are pollinated by bees and other insects. The fruit of the plant is a small capsule containing numerous seeds.

Common Figwort has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Its use can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was used to treat a variety of ailments. It was also used by Native Americans for similar purposes.

One of the active compounds in Common Figwort is harpagide, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, the plant has been used to treat conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. It has also been used to treat skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.

Common Figwort has also been used to treat respiratory conditions, such as coughs, colds, and bronchitis. It has been found to have expectorant properties, which means that it helps to clear the airways and promote the expulsion of phlegm.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Common Figwort has also been used for culinary purposes. The young leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach, and the flowers can be used to make a tea or infusion.

While Common Figwort is generally considered safe when used in moderation, it can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if consumed in large quantities. It is also not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Common Figwort is a hardy plant that is relatively easy to grow. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial shade but can also grow in full sun. It can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, or division of the root ball.

In addition to its medicinal and culinary uses, Common Figwort has also been used in folklore and superstition. In some cultures, the plant was believed to have magical properties, and it was used to ward off evil spirits and protect against witchcraft.

Common Figwort is also an important plant for wildlife. Its flowers are a source of nectar for bees and other insects, and its leaves are a food source for caterpillars. Birds and small mammals also eat the seeds.

It should be noted that while Common Figwort has many potential health benefits, it should not be used as a replacement for conventional medical treatment. It is always important to consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy.

One interesting fact about Common Figwort is that the name "figwort" comes from the plant's historical use in treating hemorrhoids, which were sometimes referred to as "figs" due to their resemblance to the fruit. In addition, the name "knotted figwort" refers to the knobby, swollen parts of the plant's stem, which resemble knots or tubers.

Another traditional use of Common Figwort was as a treatment for scrofula, a disease characterized by swollen lymph nodes in the neck. This use is reflected in the plant's scientific name, Scrophularia, which comes from the Latin word "scrofula" and refers to the plant's historical use in treating the condition.

Common Figwort is also a source of inspiration for artists and writers. In the Victorian era, the plant was often used as a symbol of artistic creativity and inspiration. The plant's unusual appearance and medicinal properties have also been the subject of poetry and literature over the centuries.

In terms of modern research, there is ongoing investigation into the potential uses of Common Figwort in cancer treatment. Some studies have suggested that the plant may have anti-tumor properties, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.

In conclusion, Common Figwort is a fascinating plant with a rich history and many potential uses. From its traditional medicinal uses to its value for wildlife and its symbolic significance in art and literature, this plant is a truly versatile and remarkable species. As research into its properties and potential continues, we may discover even more about the benefits that this plant can offer.


Common Figwort filmed at the following 3 locations:
  • Smardale, Yorkshire Dales: 16th June 2023
  • Rydal Water, Cumbria: 17th June 2023
  • Crickley Hill, Gloucestershire: 25th June 2023

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Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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