I have been steadily updating my list of herbs that I’m going to be selling this year as I have quite few new ones (wahoo!). And because I’m a bit of a herb geek I really enjoy looking through all my books and sometimes the internet, researching the herbs to give you as much info as possible (hmmm, well I probably edit that info to what I find interesting and miss some useful bits!)
Anyhoo, there was one herb that was evading me in my quest for knowledge and that was Pyrethrum Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium. I guessed that because it doesn’t have any medical benefits that I knew of it wasn’t in any of my herbal medicine books and at that very time I didn’t have access to the internet. So I moved on with my research to Pelargoniums…
Flicking through Mrs. M Grieves Modern Herbal I noticed that the entry below Pelargonium was Pellitory Anacyclus pyrethrum and under Synonyms was Anthemis pyrethrum, Pyrethrum officinarum, Pyrethrum, Pyrethri radix…….Pyrethre, Matricaria pyrethrum.
On reading its description and its medicinal action it didn’t sound like what I have.
But the next entry was Pellitory, Dalmation with the botanical name Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium. A-ha! That’s more like it.
But no information.
Next entry, Pellitory, Persian Chrysanthemum roseum with synonyms Insect flowers, Insect plants. And finally we get to the history of the plant we’re actually after….
So back in the day the Insect Powder of commerce was first known as Persian Insect Powder or Persian Pellitory and was made from the closed flowers of Pyrethrum roseum and P. carneum, natives of Northern Persia (that’s Northern Iran to us now). The flowers are beautiful shades of rose and crimson.
But then along came a species frrom the Dalmation region of Croatia. Turns out Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium was made of stronger stuff and the Dalmation pellitory took the insect stupefying throne out from under the pretty Persian pellitory flower petals.
I’ve yet to find out why we now call Dalmation Pellitory (Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium) pyrethrum. Pyrethrum was actually a genus name for several plants which are now classified as Chrysanthemum or Tanacetum.
C. cinerarifolium is well tolerant of coastal conditions and grows best on stoney dry sites with plenty of sunshine – and if you have it, on a hillside. Just like its home ground. Apparently the higher the elevation that they’re growing the stronger the flowers are in pyrethene, the active constituent that affects the nervous system of insects. If you’re interested, Kenya is actually the biggest commercial producer of pyrethrum for insecticidal use.
The flowers are harvested at various times of development., the most active are flowers collected when they are fully developed but before they’ve expanded. they’re then dried and ground into a fine powder.
As wonderful as it is to have an organic biodegradable insecticide it unfortunately doesn’t have the discrimination to leave our dwindling bees alone. Pyrethrum is catergorised as level three in terms of its toxicity to bees. Read this article here for more info, take mind it is presuming you’re looking at using a commercially produced pyrethrum insecticide that contains other chemicals. But if you make your own using your own flowers (dried and ground) then carefully dusted onto your plants or applied as a spray very early in the morning or early evening and avoid the flowers it might be ok eh. Could it help in the battle with pysilid??
There are other ways to use pyrethrum in its natural state though….
~the plants can be grown in the garden as a companion plant to keep the insects away from susceptible plants. Apparently it grows well with broccoli.
~a tincture of the flowers can be made then diluted with 10 parts water to be dabbed on your skin as an insect repellent – it is harmless to human beings.
A lot of potential there folks! Get it here.
Right, now I ought to start updating what tomatoes I’ll have available this year!