Purple Loosestrife

It’s time for the Purple Loosestrife to make its grand entrance now. The flower spikes were beginning to appear a couple of weeks back:

There seems to be lots of flower spikes. As well as the main ones, there are others branching off beneath too.

I got my first photos of the flowers this weekend. Some flower spikes are more advanced than others but it looks like we will have a good while of flowering time to come as there are plenty yet to open.

I do wonder how Yellow and Purple Loosestrife both ended up being called Loosestrifes… it’s rather an odd name, and they don’t look very much alike so I wonder why they both got the same name. Purple Loosestrife’s latin name is Lythrum salicaria and Yellow Loosestrife is Lysimachia vulgaris. They’re not even in the same genus: Purple is in Lythrum and Yellow is in Lysimachia. I can’t seem to find out how they both ended up with the same name! Maybe it has something to do with their medicinal uses, as they both seem to have been used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. I’ve found an explanation that works for the Yellow Loosestrife on dictionary.com:

Origin of loosestrife
1540–50; loose (v.) + strife, mistranslation of Latin lȳsimachīa (< Greek lȳsimáchei(os) + -a feminine noun suffix; see lysi--machy), plant said to be named after a certain Lysímachos; see -ia

Merriam Webster says it was

intended as translation of Greek lysimacheios loosestrife (as if from lysis act of loosing + machesthai to fight)

So apparently someone got confused and translated it as ‘loose strife’ when it was actually named after a person called Lysimachos. So that makes sense for Lysimachia vulgaris (Yellow Loosestrife), but how did Lythum salicaria (Purple Loosestrife) end up with the same name?!

I think I shall have to accept that I will probably never know. Perhaps it’s better to refer to plants by their official names to be clear!

By Suzy Shipman

I like to take photos and write words ...

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