11 June 2009

Another speedwell - brooklime (Veronica beccabunga)

Brooklime is not uncommon in wet places in Brede High Woods, often growing in marshy ruts along the rides.

20090514 BHW 002

Once quite popular in country medicine for supposedly curing a variety of ailments, brooklime was also eaten like watercress, with which it was sometimes mixed.  It is quite a healthy addition to the diet but not, according to the literature, very palatable.

A famous 18th century Irish herbalist, Elizabeth Pearson, apparently made a fortune with a cure for scrofula (a tuberculosis of the lymph glands in the neck area) based on brooklime.

The suffix -lime is said to derive from Anglo-Saxon hleomoce and there may well be a relationship with this word.  Lime and its cognates, however, have ancient watery roots.   W. H. F Nicolaisen (1976) in Scottish Place Names. Their study and significance (Batsford, London) proposed, for example,  a pre-Celtic British word limona from limo meaning ‘flood'. He cites the river Lyon in Perthshire as deriving from this root as well as the rivers Lyme in Devon and Dorset. To this one might add the Limene, the Roman term for the East Sussex Rother (still preserved in its tributary the river Limden at Etchingham and, perhaps, Lympne on Romney Marsh) and the river Line, the name of the upper section of the East Sussex river Brede.

Perhaps brooklime simply means 'brook brook' as the river Avon means 'river river'.

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