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Green Figwort

Scrophularia umbrosa

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Plant Profile

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

Purple, 5 petals
Purplish-brown flowers, 7 to 10mm across. Pollinated by bees and wasps.
Globular fruit with seeds ripening from June to September.
Broadly oval shaped leaves, similar to Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa) but with more sharply-toothed margins. Perennial. Similar to Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) but with greener stems. Water Figwort also has leaf auricles.
Other Names:
Healing Herb, Knotted Figwort, Scarce Water Figwort, Water Betony, Western Figwort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Green figwort (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 leaves are dark green, and the stem and leaves are covered with short, fine hairs. 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.

Green figwort 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 has also 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.


Green figwort, also known as Scrophularia umbrosa, is a plant species belonging to the Scrophulariaceae family. This herbaceous perennial plant is native to Europe and can be found growing in woodland areas, hedgerows, and damp meadows. The plant is characterized by its dark green leaves, which are lobed and toothed, and its distinctive reddish-brown stems.

The green figwort blooms in the summer, producing clusters of small, greenish-brown flowers that are arranged in loose panicles. The flowers are not showy, but they are attractive to bees and other pollinators. The plant can grow up to 1.2 meters in height, and its root system is strong and extensive, allowing it to thrive in a variety of soil types.

Historically, green figwort has been used for medicinal purposes. Its common name is said to have come from its use in treating hemorrhoids, as the plant was believed to resemble a fig in shape and the word "wort" means plant in Old English. The plant's roots were also used in traditional medicine to treat skin conditions such as eczema, as well as to alleviate symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism.

In addition to its medicinal properties, green figwort also has ecological significance. The plant is a source of food and habitat for various species of insects, including butterflies and moths. It also helps to stabilize soil, prevent erosion, and maintain soil moisture levels. Its extensive root system helps to hold the soil in place and prevent it from being washed away during heavy rainfall.

Green figwort is a hardy and adaptable plant that can be grown in a variety of conditions. It prefers partial shade and moist, well-drained soil, but can also tolerate full sun and drier conditions. The plant can be propagated through division or by taking stem cuttings in the spring.

Medicinal Properties

Green figwort has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and it contains a variety of chemical compounds that have potential health benefits. For example, the plant contains iridoid glycosides, which have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant effects that can help to protect the body against oxidative stress. Other compounds in the plant have been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Some of the traditional uses of green figwort in herbal medicine include treating skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne, as well as digestive issues, like indigestion and diarrhea. The plant has also been used to alleviate symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism, and to reduce inflammation and pain in various parts of the body.

Ecological Significance

Green figwort is an important plant species for a variety of reasons. Its flowers are attractive to bees and other pollinators, making it an important source of nectar and pollen in the ecosystem. The plant's leaves are also a source of food for caterpillars of various moth and butterfly species, and the plant provides habitat for other small insects and spiders.

In addition to its role in supporting pollinators and other insects, green figwort is also an important soil stabilizer. Its extensive root system helps to hold the soil in place, preventing erosion and protecting against landslides. The plant's ability to maintain soil moisture levels is also beneficial in preventing drought and conserving water.

Growing Green Figwort

Green figwort is a hardy and adaptable plant that can be grown in a variety of conditions. It prefers partial shade and moist, well-drained soil, but can also tolerate full sun and drier conditions. The plant can be propagated through division or by taking stem cuttings in the spring.

If you're interested in growing green figwort, it's important to choose a site that has the right growing conditions. The plant prefers soils that are slightly acidic and rich in organic matter. It can be grown from seed, but it's often easier to propagate through division, which should be done in the spring. The plant can be divided every few years to prevent overcrowding and to promote healthy growth.

Cultural Significance

Green figwort has been used in folklore and mythology in some cultures. For example, in England, the plant was once known as "scrofula herb" because it was believed to cure scrofula, a type of tuberculosis that affected the lymph nodes. In the past, it was common for people with scrofula to be touched by the king or queen, as it was believed that this would cure them. However, when the monarchy was abolished in the 17th century, green figwort was often used as a substitute for this treatment.

In other cultures, green figwort has been associated with protection and purification. Some Native American tribes, for example, have used the plant in purification ceremonies, and it has also been used in smudging rituals to cleanse the energy of a space.

In some parts of Europe, green figwort has been used in brewing and winemaking. The plant's bitter flavor makes it useful for adding depth and complexity to certain types of beer and wine, and it has also been used to make a variety of herbal remedies and tonics.

Conservation Status

Green figwort is a common and widespread plant species, and it is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction. However, as with many wild plants, it can be affected by habitat loss and other environmental pressures. In some areas, the plant's habitat has been threatened by urbanization, agriculture, and other forms of development.

To protect green figwort and other plant species, it's important to conserve and restore natural habitats. This can be done through a variety of methods, such as reforestation, wetland restoration, and habitat conservation planning. In addition, it's important to support efforts to reduce pollution, mitigate climate change, and promote sustainable land use practices, all of which can help to protect green figwort and other plant species for generations to come.


Green figwort is a member of the family Scrophulariaceae, which is a large and diverse group of plants that includes many species with medicinal and ecological value. The genus Scrophularia contains over 200 species, and green figwort is one of several species that are native to Europe and Asia. Some other species in the genus Scrophularia are also used in traditional medicine and have ecological value.

Physical Characteristics

Green figwort is a perennial plant that can grow up to 1.2 meters tall. It has dark green leaves that are lance-shaped and toothed, and it produces small greenish-yellow flowers that are arranged in clusters. The plant's stem is hairy and can be quite thick, and it has a slightly unpleasant odor. The plant's root system is extensive and fibrous, which helps it to stabilize soil and absorb water.


Green figwort is native to Europe and western Asia, and it can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, meadows, and hedgerows. It is a common plant species in many parts of its range, and it has also been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America and Australia, where it is sometimes considered to be an invasive species.

Uses in Cooking and Tea

While green figwort is primarily known for its medicinal and ecological value, it can also be used in cooking and tea. The plant has a slightly bitter and pungent taste, and it can be used to flavor soups, stews, and sauces. In addition, it can be used to make a medicinal tea that is believed to have a variety of health benefits.

To make green figwort tea, simply steep a handful of the dried leaves and flowers in hot water for several minutes. The tea can be sweetened with honey or sugar, if desired, and it is often used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, skin conditions, and inflammation.

In conclusion, green figwort is a versatile and useful plant species that has a variety of applications. Whether you're interested in its medicinal properties, its ecological significance, or its culinary uses, there are many reasons to appreciate and learn about this fascinating plant.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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