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Tordylium maximum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Cliffs, grassland, mountains, rocky places, scrub, wasteland.

White, 5 petals
White flowers appearing in flat umbels. The umbels measure from 2 to 2.5cm across. The outermost petals are the largest. Pollinated by insects.
Flattened, oval, bristly fruits. Prominent sepal-teeth.
An annual or biennial plant with 1-pinnate leaves and coarsely toothed leaflets. The leaflets are narrowed towards their tips. Hairy.
Other Names:
Mediterranean Hartwort, Roman Pimpernel.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Tordylium maximum, also known as Tordylium maximum, is a species of perennial herb in the Apiaceae family. It is native to the Mediterranean region, specifically in the eastern Mediterranean, including the Eastern Aegean, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus. It is typically found in rocky or stony habitats, such as hillsides and cliffs. It is a woody perennial that forms a small bush and can reach up to 2 m tall. The leaves are pinnate and the plant produces small, white or pinkish flowers in umbels. These flowers bloom in late spring to early summer. The plant is not commonly cultivated and it is not widely known. However, it has been traditionally used in herbal medicine as a diuretic, expectorant, and to promote sweating. It is also used to make a yellow dye.


Hartwort, also known as Tordylium maximum, is a plant species that belongs to the Apiaceae family. This species is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and it has been introduced to some parts of North America. Hartwort is a biennial plant, which means it completes its life cycle in two years. During the first year, it forms a rosette of leaves close to the ground, and during the second year, it produces a flowering stem that can reach up to 2 meters in height.

Hartwort is a robust and hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of soil types, although it prefers well-drained soils. It is also a relatively tolerant plant when it comes to environmental conditions and can grow in both full sun and partial shade. Its deep taproot allows it to access water and nutrients from deep within the soil, making it particularly well adapted to dry and arid environments.

One of the most notable features of Hartwort is its inflorescence. The flowering stem of the plant produces a large umbel, which is a structure composed of multiple small flowers arranged in a flat-topped or convex shape. The individual flowers are small and white or yellowish in color, and they are arranged in a way that gives the umbel a delicate and intricate appearance. The inflorescence of Hartwort is not only visually appealing but also attracts a wide variety of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hoverflies.

Hartwort has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and it is known for its anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. It has also been used to treat conditions such as bronchitis, coughs, and rheumatism. In addition, Hartwort has been used as a culinary herb in some parts of Europe, where the young leaves and shoots are used to flavor salads and soups.

Despite its many positive attributes, Hartwort can be an invasive species in some regions. Its ability to grow and reproduce quickly can allow it to outcompete native plants and disrupt local ecosystems. As a result, it is important to carefully monitor and manage Hartwort populations in areas where it is introduced.

Hartwort is a fascinating and versatile plant species that has played an important role in human culture and medicine for centuries. Its robust and hardy nature allows it to thrive in a variety of environments, and its delicate inflorescence is both visually appealing and important for attracting pollinators. However, its invasive tendencies remind us of the importance of careful management and conservation of our natural environments.

Hartwort is also known by various common names such as Hart's wort, giant cumin, or Mediterranean hartwort. It is considered an important medicinal plant in many traditional medicinal systems, including Ayurveda and Unani medicine. The plant is believed to possess several therapeutic properties, such as antibacterial, antifungal, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, and antioxidant effects.

Hartwort contains several bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, coumarins, sesquiterpenes, and essential oils. These compounds are responsible for the plant's various pharmacological activities. The essential oil extracted from Hartwort has been found to possess potent antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it a promising natural alternative to synthetic antimicrobial agents.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Hartwort has been used in traditional agriculture as a fodder crop for livestock. The plant is highly palatable and nutritious, and it can provide a good source of forage for grazing animals. Hartwort is also considered a valuable plant for soil conservation and land reclamation, as its deep taproot can help prevent soil erosion and improve soil fertility.

One interesting aspect of Hartwort is its cultural significance. In ancient Greece, it was believed that Hartwort had magical properties and was used to ward off evil spirits. It was also used in love potions and was believed to promote fertility and sexual potency. The plant has also been associated with various religious and spiritual traditions. In some parts of Europe, it was believed that Hartwort could protect against the evil eye and was often hung in homes and shops for this purpose.

Hartwort is also used in modern herbal medicine, although it is not as commonly used as some other herbs. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties, and it is sometimes used to treat conditions such as arthritis, gout, and kidney stones. It is also used in some herbal remedies for respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and asthma.

In terms of its cultivation, Hartwort is a relatively low-maintenance plant that can be grown from seed. It prefers well-drained soils and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. The plant is usually harvested in the summer when the flowers are in full bloom, and the leaves and flowers can be dried and used for various purposes, including as a culinary herb, tea, or medicine.

Overall, Hartwort is a fascinating and versatile plant species with a rich cultural history and a wide range of applications in traditional medicine, agriculture, and environmental conservation. Its unique combination of hardiness, versatility, and pharmacological properties makes it a valuable resource for human societies and ecosystems alike. However, as with any plant species, it is important to be mindful of its potential ecological impact and manage its populations carefully to avoid environmental disruption.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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