Mystery plant


I photographed this plant at Lopham Fen in Suffolk this week.

How does it relate to the history of medicine?

A clue is in the botanical name.

Chris Derrett


Posted in Uncategorized.


  1. Looks like a member of the Umbelliferae, probably Angelica. Without resorting to Google I don’t know the botanical name.

    • Nope.
      It is a member of the rose family.
      It is the old botanical name (not the modern one) that is the clue.

      Here’s another clue –Hoffman used this plant as an ingredient.

  2. Ah, could it be Meadowsweet?
    Don’t know the botanical name , but it was a source of aspirin.
    Who was Hoffman?

  3. Meadowsweet formerly known as Spiraea Ulmaria. the spir in Spireae inspired the name aspirin. Hoffmann was the chemist working for Bayer who acetylated salicylic acid to produce aspirin. A for acetyl, spir for spiraea and in because numerous Bayer products had the suffix in 9such as Hero-in.

    Rod Amos

  4. “About one in five people with asthma has Samter’s triad, in which aspirin induces asthma symptoms. Therefore, asthmatics should be aware of the possibility that meadowsweet, with its similar biochemistry, will also induce symptoms of asthma”.This is cribbed from Wkipedia, so suppose it is accurate, but never heard of the Triad. Who was Samter?

  5. Running out of Reference books! According to David Allen “Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition” Linnaeus gave it both “old” and “new” names – don’t ask me why. Perhaps he was dealing with two close spp. “Old” name Spiraea filipendula – “new” name Filipendula ulmaria – the “new” name is actually quite “old” – Linnaeus died in 1778. Samter is a town in the former Prussian Province of Posen (today’s Poznan) nowadays known as Szamotouly (“l” has a little line through it and is pronounced something like a soft “w”). Max Samter was a German Jew, probably originally from Samter, doctor and scientist, who fled from the Nazis – became Professor in the Illinois College of Medicine – specialised in allergies and otorhinolarynology. The syndrome was originally described by Widal et al in 1922 but largely ignored until Samter and Beers (don’t know who he was) described patients with the same symptoms, – airway problems (asthma) + nasal problems (blockages) + sensitivity to aspirin and other NSAIDs, in 1968. Although they did not discover the syndrome they described much of the biological basis for the disorder. In 1897 Felix Hoffman, employed by Bayer Chemicals managed to synthesise a new version of salicin from Filipendula with the advantage it was less irritating to the stomach and digestion than pure salicyclic acid. Bayer jumped on the bandwagon! (E&OE!!)

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