|spores of moonwort
MOONWORT, ONE OF THE FERNS: HISTORY, SUPERSTITIONS AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF MOONWORT
Moonwort or common moonwort is a fern which grows throughout
Europe, North and South America, parts of Asia and . Botyrchium lunaria is sometimes called the common moonwort to distinguish it from others in the same family of Botrychiaceae, in the order of the Ophioglossales or adder’s tongue order of plants. Australia
Moonwort has long been a plant associated with magic and it is said that witches used to gather it by moonlight (preferably during the full moon) and use it in their spells and during incantations. Superstition has it (in the
and as mentioned by Nicholas Culpeper) that it could unlock locks and unshoe horses which trod on it unwittingly. This is what Culpeper has to say abut this tiny fern, which grows to a staggering 3 inches high, which is why it is so difficult to spot in long grass. UK
“Government and virtues. The Moon owns the herb. Moonwort is cold and drying more than adder's tongue, and is therefore held to be more available for all wounds both inward and outward. The leaves boiled in red wine, and drank, stay the immoderate flux of women's courses, and the whites. It also stays bleeding, vomiting, and other fluxes. It helps all blows and bruises, and to consolidate all fractures and dislocations. It is good for ruptures, but is chiefly used, by most with other herbs, to make oils or balsams to heal fresh or green wounds (as I said before) either inward or outward, for which it is excellently good.
Moonwort is a herb which (they say) will open locks, and unshoe such horses as tread upon it. This some laugh to scorn, and those no small fools neither; but country people, that I know, call it Unshoe the Horse. Besides I have heard commanders say, that on White Down in Devonshire, near Tiverton, there were found thirty horse shoes, pulled off from the feet of the Earl of Essex's horses, being there drawn up in a body, many of them being but newly shod, and no reason known, which caused much admiration: the herb described usually grows upon heaths.”
In some states in
North America, moonwort is an endangered species, particularly in New England, where it is on the critically endangered list in the state of . It has the distinction of being the only moonwort which grows in Maine where as Culpeper reports (writing in the 17th century) it was mainly used as a vulnerary or wound healer. John Parkinson (1567-1650), who was herbalist to King Charles I of Britain , says that the plant was used by alchemists who sought to change base materials into gold. Britain
Because it is so small it is difficult to spot, but it has spores, which look a little like flowers, between the months of June and August, when you are more likely to detect it. It doesn’t have fronds like the maidenhair fern or bracken, but nevertheless it is a small fern.