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Lunaria annua - Honesty

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Brassicales - Family: Brassicaceae

Honesty, Lunaria annua

Many spring wildflowers have to struggle through rank vegetation, but Honesty is much taller than most and usually manages to stand head and shoulders above the crowd. Being gregarious, these plants make wonderful floral display, usually purple or mauve but sometimes pure white, that are visible from afar. In autumn they are just as conspicuous, because of their translucent coin-shaped seedpods that shimmer in the sunlight and rustle in the breeze.

Description

Typically 40 to 90cm tall, Honesty has square hairy stems and large oval to heart-shaped leaves, the lower ones stalked and the upper ones stalkless.They alternate up the sparsely branching stems. Stems terminate in racemes of four-petalled flowers typically 2.5-3cm across.

Closeup of Honesty flowers

Distribution

Common and widespread as an introduced plant now seen throughout Britain and Ireland, Honesty is also found throughout much of mainland Europe; however, it originated from the Balkans and southwest Asia. Its popularity as a garden flower means that colonies are most often seen near to towns and villages.

Lunaria annua, leaves of Honesty

The serrate leaves of Honesty are alternate up the square hairy stems.

Habitat

Honesty thrives in partial shade beneath hedgerows and on woodland edges as well as in sheltered ditches and stream banks. Look out for this plant also on scrubby wasteland and in old uncultivated orchards.

Flowers and seedpods of Lunaria annua, Honesty

Flowering times

This spring wildflower can usually be seen blooming in Britain and Ireland from late April to the end of June.

Etymology

Lunaria, the genus name, means moon-shaped and is a reference to the dried seedpods, which resemble a full moon. Although in some countries this plant can be an annual, in Britain at least it is nearly always a biennial - despite its specific epithet annua which suggests that it is an annual.

A beautiful pink form of Cuckoo Flower

The coin-shaped seedpods, typically 3-4.5cm across, are green initially but dry out and become translucent.

Uses

Apart from its popularity as an old-fashioned garden wildflower, Honesty is much loved by Orange-tip butterflies and, in southern France for example, by the lovely Provencal Orange-tip.

The pictures of Honesty in bloom shown on this page were taken in southern France during April and in Wales during May..


Volume 1

We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O'Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here...

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