‘Rosolio di pentaglottis’

The Green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) has been used for making a traditional liquor in some regions of Italy. There, it is known as “Rosolio di pentaglottis”.

Green alkanet can also be referred to as Evergreen alkanet, and Evergreen bugloss

Green alkanet is a common and widespread sight in most southern parts of the UK, but lesser so in the midlands and east. In Ireland, it can only be found on the east and south coast. This plant is tolerant to a wide range of soils and climates, but prefers partial to full sun. Also, P. sempervirens can become drought resistant once fully established. It will often be found in woodlands, shady hedgerows, roadside verges, and on rocky slopes, but also planted in gardens.

P. sempervirens has hairy, spade-shaped leaves, that normally grow up to 20-40 cm long. Unlike other plants, the leaves are retained during winter. These leaves are attached to a round, hairy stem, and the full plant can reach a height of around 1 m.

The green alkanet produces small, delicate blue flowers with white centres, between April and July. These flowers are only about 8-10 mm, but are initially a pink colour when in bud form; it isn’t until they are fully open that they turn blue. The green alkanet’s flowers are very similar to those of forget-me-nots, and borage, and the reason is that they share a family within the Borages, Boraginaceae.

The plant’s stamen is hidden inside the narrow tube which forces insects to squeeze inside or to use their long tongues to reach the nectar. This could be to aid in pollination, to ensure the insect has taken the pollen.

Speaking of pollinators, the flowers are a source of nectar for many insects, including bees and butterflies, and too provides as a host for many species of butterfly larvae. Green alkanet also attracts birds, as the seeds are a food source for many species.

Within the green alkanet’s scientific name, ‘Pentaglottis‘ translates to ‘five tongues’, which describes the flower’s structure, and ‘sempervirens‘ means evergreen.

P. sempervirens is a popular choice for the use of natural dyes, where the roots contain a red dye that is used for staining fabrics, yarns, and other materials. To create this dye, the roots are boiled for a set time, and the liquid is strained. Depending on the mordant (fixative) used, and the length of time the fabric has been left in the dye bath, the dyes can produce a range of colours, from light pink, to dark red. The name ‘alkanet’ also comes from the Arabic name for henna, which is a natural hair and skin dye.

Green alkanet also has many medicinal properties, with the roots traditionally being used to treat a range of ailments, like skin conditions, respiratory problems, and digestive issues. However, the plant is toxic if consumed in large quantities, so it should be used with caution.