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Dogs Mercury
Euphorbiaceae
Mercurialis perennis


Thunder
Thunder
Type Categories Useful Parts

Herb


Euphorbiaceae Family

Mercurialis Genus

Location

Native to Europe and Russian Asia. Common in the woodlands of England, Wales and Southern Scotland.

Found covering large areas in dense stands as an understorey plant in woodlands, especially, but not exclusively, on calcareous soils.



Physical Description
It is a hairy dioecious perennial with erect stems bearing simple, serrate leaves. The inflorescence is green bearing inconspicuous flowers in March and April. Dog’s Mercury is a perennial plant with lots of upright, unbranched stems (up to 1 foot high), which grow from its creeping rhizome. It is a herbaceous plant, sending up from its creeping root numerous, undivided stems, about a foot high, is common in woods and shady places throughout Europe and Russian Asia, except in the extreme north

Each stem bears several pairs of rather large roughish leaves, and from the axils of the upper ones grow the small green flowers, the barren on long stalks, the fertile sessile, the first appearing before the leaves are quite out. The stamens and pistils are on different plants. The perianth is three-cleft to the base. The barren flowers have nine stamens or more, the fertile flowers two styles and two cells to the two-lobed ovary.

Male and female plants are rarely found intermixed, each usually growing in large patches. The female are less common than the male




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Euphorbiaceae
Malpighiales
Malpighi Order
Oxid Clad
Oxid-Faba
Fabidae
Bean-Like Class
Eurosids
Real Rose Class
Rosids
Rosids
Rose-Like Class
Core Eudicots
Core Eudicots
Main, Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Eudicots
Eudicots
Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Mesangiospermae
Mesangiospermae
Half Capsule Seed Division
Magnoliophyta
Magnoliophyta
Magnolia Division
Spermatophytes
Spermatophytes
Seed Plants
Euphyllophytina
Real Land Plants
Polysporangiates
Multiple Spore Sub-Kingdom
Stomatophytes
Stomatophytes
Air Pores Sub-Kingdom
Embryophytes
Embryophytes
Multicellular Land Plants
Streptobionta
Streptobionta
Multicellular Plants
Plantae
Plantae
Plants
Eukaryota
Eukaryota
Cells with a Nucleus


General Information

You will find it spoken of in the old herbals as possessing wonderful powers, but it has been abandoned as a dangerous remedy for internal use.

In spite of its dangers, Dog’s Mercury has nevertheless been used in the past as a medicinal herb. Maybe its abundance in woodlands is a factor here, since our ancestors would seldom waste any local resource. I have also heard that that gypsies have used this herb for divining the sex of an unborn baby.

Medicinal Uses: “Hippocrates commends this herb for women’s diseases, used externally, as did also Culpepper, who says it is good for sore and watering eyes and deafness and pain in the ears. He advises the use of it, also, as a decoction, ‘made with water and a cock chicken’, for hot fits and ague. It has been employed for jaundice and as a purgative.

The juice of the whole plant, freshly collected when in flower, mixed with sugar or with vinegar, is recommended externally for warts, and for inflammatory and discharging sores, and also, applied as a poultice, to swellings and to cleanse old sores.

A lotion is made from the plant for antiseptic external dressings, to be used in the same manner as carbolic.

Food Uses: The fact that some old books recommend Dog’s Mercury as a good potherb arose probably from confusing it with the less harmful annual species, called by Gerard the French or Garden Mercury

Other Notes: When steeped in water, the leaves, and stems of the plant give out a fine blue, resembling indigo. This coloring matter is turned red by acids and destroyed by alkalis, but it is otherwise permanent, and might prove valuable as a dye, if any means of fixing the color could be devised. The stems are of a bright metallic blue, like indigo, and those that run into the ground have the most coloring matter.” Mrs.Grieve “A Modern Herbal” (1931)

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves. The seed is a potential source of a very good drying oil

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Warning: Due to the presence of Mercurialine, a volatile basic oil, found in the entire plant, it is toxic. Symptoms of poisoning are Severe gastro-enteritis. There is noi cure, only supportive care can be given!



Dogs Mercury
Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany [Image in Public Domain]

Comment: Dogs Mercury, Mercurialis perennis

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