Wild Snapdragon: Herbal Wildflower with Dozens of Names
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Wild Snapdragon: Herbal Wildflower with Dozens of Names

The Wild Snapdragons, correctly known as "Butter and Eggs" is an invasive weed and native plant with a pretty flower noted for 'popping' or 'snapping' when pinched...

'Butter and Eggs' is the name of this Common Wildflower

Growing up in rural western New York state I am quite familiar with these non-native plants and wildflowers properly called "Eggs and Butter" (Linaria vulgaris.) We just called them by the vernacular name "Snapdragons."

Commonly seen in fields and usually one of the first weeds to colonize recently disturbed soil such as tilled agricultural land, this ruderal species (first to colonize disturbed soils), the snapdragon is classified as both a weed and a flower.

Wild Snapdragon, Invasive Native Flower Specie

The Wild Snapdragon species was originally native to Europe and northern Asia and introduced to America as a cultivar flower. The insidious Snapdragons eventually escaped to become wild-growing. Today, snapdragons have a range all over North America from Manitoba to Mexico. Wild Snapdragons are not native to North America but they have colonized far and wide. In some States and Provinces they are listed not just as 'non-native,' but also as being an 'invasive specie' as they can crowd-out legitimate native wildflower species on exposed ground.

Popularly but somewhat incorrectly called 'Snapdragons' for the 'snapping' or 'popping' produced when pinched, these wildflowers are a favorite of children whom almost inevitably abuse the wildflowers to produce the sound.

Wild Snap Dragons Grow Anywhere

Well-drained soil is about the only requirement these adaptive perennial wildflowers need to thrive. Common along roadsides and clay-laden, stony soils where most other plants fare poorly, the wild snapdragon takes a foothold and seems to grow effortlessly. Their small but showy yellow and orange flowers resemble scrambled egg-yolk in a pool of yellow butter, hence the suggestive name.

'Butter and Eggs' or 'Wild Snapdragons' Flower

Eggs and Butter flower, more commonly known as 'wild snapdragon'

(image source)

Known regionally under different names, Wild Snapdragons are also called brideweed, bread and butter, false flax, pennywort, yellow toadflax and over two dozen other titles too numerous to include.

These wildflowers are notably long-lived when cut and stored in a vase of water, accounting partly for their initial desirability as an ornamental cultivar. Their flower and leaves have been listed as having medical properties although they are no longer used for any folk remedies.

Harvesting snapdragons for medicinal use is done during flowering season. The above-ground portions are hung in bunches on a string and allowed to dry. All the parts are used; the stems, leaves and flowers.

Derived of folk remedies from Europe (where these wildflowers originally were native), the dried portions of this weed were brewed in hot water and prescribed to be taken internally for a host of maladies that included hepatitis, jaundice, gall bladder complaints, and edema.

Topical use of the wildflower preparation included relief from sores and ulcers of the skin, and as a rinse for the reduction of inflammation and burning of hemorrhoidal tissues. The concentrated juices of the plant were added to the bath and treatment required a long, hot soak which in itself would bring relief. An ointment that included the concentrated essence of the wildflower plant in a greasy compound also existed.

Effectiveness of this and many other 'folk remedies' is easily dismissed for many of the ailments these home remedies were created for were indifferent to the treatment given. Many pioneer and folksy home remedy preparations had such a long list of unrelated uses it could not have been tested to be effective for all of these. In short, -most 'pioneer remedies' were nothing more than snake oil and superstition.

Wild Snapdragon can easily be toxic if ingested to excess, probably accounting for why its use has been superseded by more effective modern preparations. Anyone suffering from a medical condition should seek the aid of health care provider and not rely upon folk remedies which can at best be ineffective or only mildly helpful and at worse, harmful or deadly.

Other Uses for Wild Snapdragons include Fabric Dye

Apart from ornamental flowers and the playthings of mischievous little fingers, the yellow flowers of Snapdragons can be gathered in large quantities and boiled to create a dye for the coloring of light fabrics and prepared soft leather. A pre-dye fixative of boiling the fabric in water with a cup or two of vinegar, allowed soak for an hour and rinsed repeatedly until clear prepared the fabric to receive the dye. Our ancestors had many plants, berries and even insect options for the color-dyeing of fabrics, and Wild Snapdragons were no exception.

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Comments (10)

Really nice article. These would be good for dying hand made paper pulp too. It would probably be a nice subtle color. I am out of votes but will RT

Great article. I used to love snap dragons that used to be around everywhere when I was younger, we don't seem to see them so much here ant more. I have just started growing some wild flowers from seed.

oh ya I know the plant, but never made the connection of it being a wild snap dragon.

I really enjoyed this article, I never saw a snapdragon before.

A beautiful article on how wonderful nature really is. you have my buzz up and a vote is on its way

Excellent work

Love the article. Wanted to transfer some wild ones to the garden but I don't need any more invasive varieties. A pot of them will add a color splash.

Used to love to pinch them together as a kid!

Yo! this was ace man! ...loved the 'snapdragon' coz i'm a 'cool-dragon'

Yeah, me too! I never knew the names of these snapdragon flowers and weeds, but always had fun popping them. Cool looking flower, too. The snapdragon is a very unique name for such a flower. Cool horticulture journal.