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Great burnet

Sanguisorba officinalis
It is a member of the rose family but the similarity to a rose is not obvious. The flowers have no petals, but the four sepals of the calyx are coloured deep crimson-red and are clustered into globulose heads up to 3 cm long. It is a very long-lived perennial with an extensive rhizome system lying just below the soil surface. This system of underground stems is so dense and persistent that the species is used in North America to stabilise soils on steep banks. A single clone can spread over many square metres and be several decades old. It flowers June-September.
It is a species of floodplains across Europe and also occurs in North America, wherever the climate is cool and moist. It is even found as far south as Iran in Asia, but only at altitude, where the summers are cool, as the species cannot survive intense drought.
Soil moisture tolerances: 
It is found on sites with more than 20 weeks of dry soil per year and with 10-20 weeks wet soil per year, so it is quite tolerant of soil drying, but less tolerant of waterlogging.
Soil fertility tolerances: 
It is typically found on moderately fertile sites (10-25 mg P/kg) or P index 1-2.
Traditional medicinal use: 
Burnet wine was traditionally made from its flower heads. The latin name Sanguis (blood) and sorba (absorb) points to its medicinal use; to staunch the flow of blood, including nosebleeds. It can also used to treat burns and insect bites and the leaves can be eaten in salads; they taste like cucumber!
Suitability for floodplain living: 
Great burnet is well adapted to floodplain grasslands because following a flood that is long enough to kill most grasses, the shoots of burnet are destroyed too, but once the flood has receded, burnet is one of the earliest species to produce a new canopy of shoots from its abundant reserves stored in its rhizomes. Although well adapted to the effects of flood, it prefers well drained soils, so the traditional floodplain meadow with its unpredictable inundations, combined with its rapid post-flood drainage is a tailor-made environment for the species.
Further information: 

Click here for a link to the online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora with details of the plant ecology, distribution, photos and habitats: http://www.brc.ac.uk/plantatlas/plant/sanguisorba-officinalis

Link to information from the Natural History Museum:


Link to Northern Ireland Priority species page: http://www.habitas.org.uk/priority/species.asp?item=3387