Pyrola plant info – learn about wild pyrola flowers
The name “pyro” comes from the Greek word “pyr”, which means fire or flame. Pyro is derived from the Latin words “plura” (flame) and “lira” (flower). Pyro ligerum is a species of pyrophorus, meaning it blooms in flames. Its scientific name is Pluribunda pyrophora. It is native to central and southern Europe, Asia Minor, Africa and North America.
It’s common name is pyroflorida. It was formerly called pyrophorus floridensis but it was recently renamed to reflect its true scientific name.
Its flower color varies depending on the location where it grows. It may have white, pink, purple or yellow flowers. The petals are arranged in a fan shape with five petal lobes at each end. The center lobe is much smaller than the others. They grow up to 1 cm long and 0.5 mm wide, but they’re usually only 0.1 mm thick!
Flowering occurs during mid-summer and continues into the fall. When fresh, the flowers have a sweet scent resembling that of honey. As they dry, the scent dissipates. In some varieties, the flowers do not have any scent at all.
The fruit is a pair of tiny seeds, each about 1-2 mm long. They mature in late summer and are dispersed by the wind.
The leaves are dark green and shiny on top. They grow at an angle slanting upwards, and they’re about 5-10 cm long and 1.5-3 cm wide. The leaves are covered with fine, bristle-like hairs on top but they’re hairless on the bottom.
Pyrola prefers moist soil in open or partially shaded areas. It grows at a moderate rate and can bloom within one year of seed germination. It is not recommended to plant pyrola in soil that has been treated with herbicides or heavily contaminated with heavy metals.
It’s recommended to plant pyrola in groups of three, five, seven or nine plants. They also look nice when planted around a taller plant such as a coneflower. Their flowers can be used as an ingredient in salads or to make tea. The berries are mildly poisonous and it’s advised not to consume them. When crushed, the leaves give off a sweet scent.
It is related to the wintergreen plant (Gaultheria procumbens). The scent of wintergreen is created by methyl salicylate, a compound also present in Pyrola. It is also related to the checker mallow (Sidalcea) and the western pasqueflower (Pulsatilla).
In Japan, an extract from the roots has been used in folk medicine as an anti-inflammatory. It contains saponins, flavonoids, tannins and coumarins.
In North America, the Native Americans used a poultice of crushed pyrola leaves to treat wounds. The Ojibwe people used an infusion of the roots for upset stomachs and as a heart tonic. The Blackfoot people ate the berries during spiritual rituals. They also used a poultice of the leaves to treat headaches and applied it to boils.
Pyrola is a popular garden plant because of its attractive flowers and the sweet scent they give off. It’s deer-resistant and can thrive in partial shade. It prefers moist soil but won’t grow in wet areas. It can grow in almost any part of the world so long as it has the right amount of sunlight.
Pyrola is sometimes used as ground cover. It is often planted in rock gardens and along walkways.
Sources & references used in this article:
Canadian Wild Flowers by CPS Traill, A Fitzgibbon – 1869 – books.google.com
Spatial genetic structure in populations of Chimaphila japonica and Pyrola japonica (Pyrolaceae) by CPS Traill – 1906 – W. Briggs
Evidence for newly discovered albino mutants in a pyroloid: implication for the nutritional mode in the genus Pyrola by SS Kang, MG Chung – Annales Botanici Fennici, 1997 – JSTOR
Flowers of the southwest mountains by K Shutoh, Y Tajima, J Matsubayashi… – American journal of …, 2020 – Wiley Online Library