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Other names: Poterium sanguisorba
Burnet Saxifrage. Salad Burnet. Japanese Bottle-Brush Flower.
N.O. Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Rosiflorae / Rosidae; Rosales; Rosaceae - Rose Family (Wichman Natural Relationships)
Description of the substance
hardy perennial herb of the family Rosaceae (rose) found in temperate regions, usually with white or greenish flowers. The European species are sometimes cultivated for the leaves, which are used in salads, for flavoring, and formerly as a poultice to stop bleeding—hence the botanical name Sanguisorba [Lat.,=absorbing blood]. Burnet is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Rosaceae.
This group is also referred to as Poterium. There is one variety, S. minor (the Salad Burnet, which is used as a vegetable), that is listed under Poterium sanguisorba; refer to this name for its description. These plants form clumps of medium green, divided leaves with 7 to 17 lance-shaped, serrated leaflets, which are heart-shaped at the base. In late summer, tiny flowers are produced in compact, slightly arching spikes, which resemble bottlebrushes, thus one of the common names Japanese Bottle-Brush Flower. Another common name is the Great Burnet. Sanguisorbas grow from 4 to 5 feet high and spread 2 to 3 feet. S. obtusa is a pretty plant that bears rose-pink flowers. S. canadensis has white flowers and S. officinalis produces brownish-red blooms.
Salad burnet is an evergreen perennial that grows in a circular mound about a foot high and 2' in diameter. The mound is formed by pinnately compound (featherlike) leaves about a foot long that arch gracefully outward from the center of the plant. The rachis (stem of the compound leaf) is wiry, and the 6-10 pairs of leaflets are more or less rounded, about an inch across, and have toothed margins. Tiny purplish or pinkish flowers are borne in compact thimble shaped heads about a half inch in diameter on flowering stalks that stand a foot or so above the leaves. The flowers within the heads are male at the bottom, bisexual in the middle and female at the top. Although interesting, the inflorescence is not at all showy.
The Lesser or Salad Burnet is not unlike the Great Burnet in habit, but it is much smaller and more slender. It was known by older writers as Pimpinella sanguisorba, Pimpinella being a corruption of bipennula, from the two pinnate leaves. Pimpinella is now reserved for the name of a genus belonging to the order Umbelliferae, and the Salad Burnet is assigned to the genus Poterium, which name is derived from the Greek poterion, a drinking-cup, from the use to which the leaves of the Salad Burnet were applied in the preparation of the numerous beverages with which the poterion was filled in ancient times. The leaves when bruised smell like cucumber and taste somewhat like it, and it was used to cool tankards in the same manner as Borage, and was also added to salads and cups. Hooker places both the Great Burnet and the Salad or Lesser Burnet in the same genus, Poterium, rejecting the generic name of Sanguisorba, assigned to the former by Linnaeus. [
The leaves taste and smell like cucumber and are used in
salads, salad dressings, iced drinks, egg dishes, cottage
cheese, butter, cream cheeses, and vinegar, or as a garnish.
Salad burnet is also useful as a border plant in a flower or
rock garden. Herbalists long ago recommended planting this
herb with thyme and mint to "perfume the air."
This is an attractive, bushy perennial that forms a 12-inch
basal rosette of leaves and grows 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall. Its
dark green leaves are sharply toothed. The green,
thimble-shaped flowers with reddish purple stigmas appear
along the stalks from midsummer on.
Salad burnet is easily grown from seed sown 1/2 inch deep,
or propagated by dividing established plants in the spring.
When the seed-lings emerge, thin them to 6 to 12 inches
apart. This herb does best in a well-drained soil in full
sun. It will tolerate a dry soil but benefits from
supplemental watering. Harvest leaves when the plant is 4
inches tall; the youngest ones are best. Remove the flowers
to maintain a compact plant habit and to keep new leaves
forming. If flower heads are left on, the plants readily
self-sow. Divide the root systems and replant the divisions
James C. Schmidt
Department of Horticulture
Michigan State University
This is a group of hardy perennials and annuals that come from the marshes of northeast North America, Japan and Europe.
The Salad Burnet is common in dry pastures and by the wayside, especially on chalk and limestone, but is rarer in Scotland and Ireland than in England. [A Modern Herbal, Mrs. Grieves]