Toadflax (linaria vulgaris)

Toadflax is a hardy perennial with yellow snapdragon-like flowers and orange centres. It is also known as Lion’s Mouth, Puppy Dog’s Mouth and Butter and Eggs.  It is a member of the Figwort family, growing 1 – 2.5 ft (30 – 76 cm).  Toadflax is common in woodlands and by roadsides.  Linaria comes from “linum”, meaning flax, a name given to the plant by Linnaeus because it looks like a Flax plant before flowering.

RHS Plants for Pollinators

Toadflax flowers June to October and thrives in full sun. It will tolerate shade but will not be as strong a plant. It also spreads well.

Wildlife Value of Toadflax

Bumblebees love Toadflax! It is also the food plant of the Toadflax Pug moth and the Marbled Clover moth.  With regard to butterflies, Toadflax is the food plant of the caterpillars of the Spotted Fritillary butterfly.

The mouth of the flower is completely closed and doesn’t open until a bee forces it to.  The only bees to visit are large bees which are able to open the flowers and whose tongues are long enough to reach the nectar.  The orange part of the flower is the honey guide, directing the bees in. 

Uses of Toadflax

Boiled with lard, Toadflax was once used as an ointment to treat ulcers, sores, piles and inflamed eyes. Juices of the plant have been known to “cure” some types of skin cancer.  It was also believed that Toadflax made a good fly poison if boiled with milk.  The fresh plant can be made into a poultice and applied to piles, as can an ointment of the flowers. 

The herbalist, Gerard, claimed it helped jaundice.  Culpepper called it Gallwort and says that he used to place it in his chicken’s water as a sort of “pick-me-up”!  Apparently toads like to sit in the shade of Toadflax and the flowers were thought to resemble little toads (use your imagination here!)

*The above is provided for information only and is in  no way a  prescription for use.  Please seek the advice of a qualified herbalist before using*

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