Navelwort – Nombril de Vénus
Umbilicus rupestris is a native of the Mediterranean region where it grows all year round. It is a herb with a long history. Navelwort is described in Nicholas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (1616-1654). He called it Kidneywort, Wall Pennyroyal or Wall Pennywort. He used astrology to determine the medicinal properties of a plant. Today we have other means at our disposal. The following is an extract from Culpeper’s Complete Herbal:
“Government and virtues. Venus challengeth the herb under Libra. The juice or the distilled water being drank, is very effectual for all inflammations, and unnatural heats, to cool a fainting hot stomach, a hot liver or the bowels; the herb, juice, or distilled water whereof, outwardly applied, healeth pimples.”
Nowadays, Navelwort has lost its use, but if during a walk you get scratched and there happens to be a Navelwort growing nearby, the juice squeezed out of the leaves relieves the pain and disinfects at the same time.
It is a succulent herb belonging to the Stonecrop family (Crassulaceae). The basal leaves are orbicular with a central ‘navel’ and a long stalk, hence the name Umbilicus. The margins of the leaves are somewhat scalloped. It tends to grow on stonewalls, preferably in a shady, moist spot, hence the rupestris, which means growing near rocks. The flowers whitish-green are tubular, born in long tapered racemes that are more than half the length of the stems. After flowering, green fruits appear.
The fresh, juicy, crunchy leaves make a lovely addition to salads.
Bibliography: Wikipedia – Umbilicus rupestris; Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician; Plantes de Mediterranee – Wolfgang Lippert/Dieter Podlech