March Plant of the Month: White Hedge Nettle (MT: Tè Sqalli) Prasium majus

March Plant of the Month: White Hedge Nettle (MT: Tè Sqalli) Prasium majus

The White Hedge Nettle is a shrub of no more than a metre in height but which can also grow as a creeper. It is the only known species belonging to the genus Prasium.

Typically found growing in the garigue, along dry stone walls or valley sides, it seems to prefer calcareous areas closer to the coast. One of its distinguishing characteristics is its shiny leaves but it is more likely to catch your eye during its flowering period, from winter till late spring, with its dainty white flowers, sometimes tinged with violet. It is desribed as a melliferous plant (a plant which yields nectar that can be transformed into honey) and is thus a great pollinator plant for bees.

Despite its english common name it is not in any way related to nettle nor does it have stinging qualities. Its Maltese name, which literally translates to Sicilian tea, is more fitting a sit indicates its past use as a substitute for tea. In some parts of the Mediterranean its name includes references to a minty taste and was considered  a thirst-quenching, diuretic drink. As with many medicinal plants, it contains various phytochemicals – the white hedge Nettle seems to have promising antioxidant properties and is rich in Vitamins such as E and K, amongst others.

Photos by Annalise Falzon

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