Plant Spotlight: Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla Vulgaris)
Lady's mantle was a popular plant grown in the Middle Ages and takes its origins from areas in the north: England, Scotland, the Netherlands, and many alpine regions. It thrives in moist, hilly pastures where livestock enjoy grazing on it.
In the home garden, this plant is perfect for cottage gardens, the front of a border, planting along the edges of walkways, for erosion control, or under trees.
What Are Lady's Mantle's Characteristics?
Lady's mantle is a perennial in the Rosaceae family (rose) that does best in USDA zones 3 through 8, in full sun or part shade. It grows from 18 to 24 inches high and produces chartreuse-yellow flowers in late spring to early summer. The plant is characterized by the lovely bright green foliage that is fuzzy. When it rains, drops collects on these leaves for a stunning visual effect. It does self-seed, but not aggressively.
How to Grow Lady's Mantle From Seed
Although it takes a bit longer than just buying starts or plants from your garden center, Lady's mantle can be propagated from seed.
The best way to do this is starting the seeds indoors and then planting outside after danger of frost:
- In seed starting mix, place one seed per cell and barely cover.
- Water in and keep moist.
- Place in a spot that is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure good germination.
- Plant the seedlings outside after danger of frost has passed.
Note: It can take three to four weeks for the seeds to germinate. So be patient!
Common Growing Problems
Lady's mantle isn't affected by too many problems and is very low maintenance. Pests and rodents tend to leave it alone. One potential problem is fungus caused by too much humidity. This can be combatted by making sure the plant has plenty of room and air circulation around it.
Where Does Its Name Originate From?
The name "mantle" means "cloak", and it was thought to have adorned the Virgin Mary. Many ceremonies dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages included adorning her statue with the plant.
The plant was also said to promote better sleep if the leaves were placed under your pillow.
One of its other nicknames, Dewcup, was so called because of the way water collects on the leaves.
Medicinal Uses of Lady's Mantle
Lady's mantle was a popular tonic in the Middle Ages for PMS and excessive menstruation. Preparation was as follows: one ounce of the leaves to one pint of boiling water, thus making an herbal tea. It is also rumored to help ease the transition into menopause.
It has anti-inflammatory agents and was also popular topically for wound healing and to stop bleeding. Typically, it was made into a salve, or fabric was soaked in the herbal tonic and the wound was dressed with that fabric.
When used as a tonic on one's face, it helps tone the skin and reduce inflammation.
What Are Its Culinary Uses?
The entire plant is edible, but most commonly the leaves are eaten raw or cooked like spinach. It is full of vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids, which are good for vascular health.
Note: As always, please consult your doctor for potential allergies or side effects. Lady's mantle has been taken in high doses without toxicity in many individuals, but better to err on the side of caution with anything new you are introducing into your diet.
Lady's Mantle as the Subject of Poems
Here is the poem "To Our Lady's Mantle" from the collection Sonnets and Miscellaneous Poems by James Inglis Cochraine:
Our Lady's Mantle !
When I musing stray In leafy June along the mossy sward, No flower that blooms more fixes my regard Than thy green leaf, though simple its array;
For thou to me art as some minstrel's lay, Depicting manners of the olden time, When on Inch Cailliach's isle the convent chime Summoned to Vespers at the close of day.
Tis pleasant 'mid the never-ending strife Of this too busy, mammon-loving age, When Nature's gentler charms so few engage, To muse at leisure on the quiet life Of earlier days, when every humble flower Was known to all, and cherished as a dower.