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Adoxa moschatellina

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Adoxaceae (Moschatel)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
15 centimetres tall
Gardens, lawns, mountains, woodland.

Green, 5 petals
Tiny green flowers in right angles to one another. 4 or 5 petals.
Green berry-like fruits (drupes) that curve downwards upon ripening.
The 5 or more lobed leaves is carpet-forming on the ground. The leaves are opposite and toothed.
Smells musky.
Other Names:
Five-faced Bishop, Hollowroot, Muskroot, Townhall Clock, Tuberous Crowfoot.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Adoxa moschatellina, also known as Moschatel, is a perennial herb species in the family Adoxaceae. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is known for its small, white flowers that bloom in spring and early summer, and its leaves which are finely divided. The plant typically grows in shaded, damp woodlands, and is considered to be a woodland understory plant. The plant has a distinctive shape, with four flowers on a single stem, each with five petals and a central green receptacle. It is a small plant, usually growing to around 15cm tall. It is not commonly grown as an ornamental plant, but it is appreciated by naturalists and botanists for its beauty and rarity.


Moschatel, also known as Adoxa moschatellina, is a small, delicate plant found in woodland areas and damp meadows throughout Europe and parts of Asia. It belongs to the family Adoxaceae and is considered a herbaceous perennial, meaning that it dies back to the ground each year and regrows in the following season.

Physical Characteristics

Moschatel is a small plant, growing to only about 15 cm in height. It has four to eight small greenish-yellow flowers arranged in a cluster on top of a slender stem. The flowers are relatively inconspicuous, with the plant's most distinctive feature being its leaves. The leaves are arranged in a whorl around the stem, with five or six pairs of leaflets that are deeply lobed and toothed, giving them a fern-like appearance.

Habitat and Distribution

Moschatel is found throughout Europe, from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, and in parts of Asia. It is typically found in damp or shady habitats, such as woodland floors, hedgerows, and damp meadows. It is a common plant, although it may not always be easy to spot due to its small size and unremarkable flowers.

Cultural Significance

Despite its lack of showy flowers or impressive size, Moschatel has played a significant role in folklore and traditional medicine. Its common name, Moschatel, comes from the musky scent of its flowers, which has led to its use as a perfume ingredient. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used as a diuretic and to treat a range of ailments, including respiratory problems and fevers.

Ecological Importance

Although Moschatel may not be the most impressive or showy plant in the forest, it plays an important role in the ecosystem. Its leaves provide shelter for small insects and other invertebrates, and its flowers are an important source of nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. It is also a food source for some animals, including the caterpillars of the rare Grizzled Skipper butterfly.

Conservation Status

Despite being a common plant, Moschatel is considered to be of conservation concern in some parts of its range, particularly in the UK where it is classified as a Priority Species. This is due to habitat loss and degradation, particularly in lowland areas where woodland habitats have been destroyed or fragmented. Efforts are underway to protect and restore Moschatel habitats, including the creation of woodland corridors and the management of existing woodlands to encourage a diverse range of plant species.

Moschatel may be small and unremarkable, but it plays an important role in the ecosystem and has a rich cultural history. Efforts to protect and restore Moschatel habitats are important for the preservation of this important plant species and the animals that rely on it.

More Information on Moschatel

Moschatel may not be a particularly well-known or popular plant, but it has a rich cultural history and has been used in traditional medicine and folklore for centuries. In addition to its use as a perfume ingredient and in traditional medicine, Moschatel has also been used in herbal remedies to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

One of the reasons why Moschatel is not particularly well-known is that it is not commonly used in gardening or landscaping. Its small size and inconspicuous flowers make it less attractive to gardeners than other more showy plants. However, for those interested in native plants or woodland gardening, Moschatel can be a valuable addition to the garden. It is also an important plant for those interested in conservation, as it plays a role in the preservation of woodland habitats and supports a range of insect and animal species.

In terms of its ecology, Moschatel is known to be an indicator of ancient woodland habitats, as it is a slow-growing plant that is sensitive to disturbance. Its presence in a woodland can be an indication of the age and ecological value of the woodland, and its absence can be a sign of habitat degradation or destruction.

There are several interesting facts about Moschatel that make it a fascinating plant species. For example, it is known for its unique arrangement of flowers, which is known as a "five-sided head." This is because the flowers are arranged in a cluster that is shaped like a square with one side missing, giving it an unusual and distinctive appearance.

Another interesting feature of Moschatel is its ability to change sex over the course of the flowering season. When the plant first flowers in the spring, it produces only male flowers. Later in the season, it produces female flowers as well, which can be fertilized by the pollen from the earlier male flowers. This adaptation allows Moschatel to reproduce more efficiently and ensures that it can produce viable seeds even in low light conditions.

In addition to its ecological and cultural importance, Moschatel is also a valuable plant for scientific research. It has been used as a model organism for studying the effects of light on plant development and as a tool for studying the evolution of plant morphology. Its small size and simple structure make it an ideal plant for laboratory experiments, and its sensitivity to light makes it a useful tool for investigating the mechanisms of plant growth and development.

Overall, Moschatel is a fascinating plant species with a rich cultural history and ecological importance. It is an excellent example of how even the smallest and most inconspicuous plants can play an important role in the natural world and in human society. Whether studied in the laboratory or appreciated in the wild, Moschatel is a plant that deserves greater recognition and appreciation.

Facts about Moschatel

Here are some key facts about Moschatel:

  • Moschatel is a plant species also known as Adoxa moschatellina.
  • It is a small plant that grows to a height of around 10-30 cm.
  • Moschatel is native to Europe and is found in damp woodland habitats.
  • The plant is known for its distinctive arrangement of flowers, which is called a "five-sided head."
  • Moschatel has a rich cultural history and has been used in traditional medicine and perfumery for centuries.
  • It is an important indicator species of ancient woodland habitats and plays a role in woodland conservation.
  • Moschatel is also a valuable plant for scientific research, particularly in the study of plant development and morphology.
  • The plant is known for its ability to change sex over the course of the flowering season, producing male flowers first and later producing female flowers as well.

In summary, Moschatel is a small but significant plant species with a unique appearance and a rich cultural and ecological history. Despite its small size, it has played an important role in human society and in the preservation of woodland habitats. Its ability to change sex and its use in scientific research also make it an interesting and valuable plant for study and appreciation.


Moschatel filmed at Duxbury, Lancashire on the 24th March 2023.


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