Green Alkanet

Green Alkanet
Green alkanes close up showing the open pores and hairy leaves

I’ve been noticing this plant a lot around where we live. It’s Green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) and it likes low-lying, damp or shaded places.

Cambridge is therefore perfect for the plant because the town is about as low lying as you can get. It is six metres (19 feet) above sea level.

Green alkanet is a wild flower (or a weed, depending on how you think of it) and a member of the Boraginaceae family.

Alkanet is therefore related to the forget-me-not, borage, viper’s bugloss, bluebells, hound’s tongue, comfrey, and others.

It has pretty blue flowers like forget-me-nots, and hairy leaves.

It looks somewhat similar to comfrey from a distance, but the flower heads are different and don’t hang down.

The Latin name Pentaglottis comes from Greek, meaning five tongues.

The word Alkanet comes from Arabic, via Spanish and Middle English, and means henna. The pigment is in the roots and it is used in cosmetics and soaps.

I wonder whether the Pakistani community use a local extract for putting henna decoration on their hands for weddings and other occasions?

23 thoughts on “Green Alkanet

  1. I used henna to dye my hair … once. I wanted it to look red. That was the only time in my life I’ve tried anything like that [dyeing my hair]. My hair is too dark — there was no noticeable result. I mixed henna with tea — you can buy it in the pharmacies back in Sweden, at least. It was a messy procedure.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve seen pictures … and also some people somewhere in Africa with their palm of their hands henna coloured?! But that could be a side effect of something else … what do I know 🙂


        1. Yes, that’s it. I had a close friend who was Pakistani. I went to weddings of his family and many of the women would decorate their hands with lace patterns of henna.


    1. Lol, yet another thing we have in common, Rebby; ). Back in the (late 70’s?) I also purchased a packet of henna to augment my hair… Fairly certain I got as far as mixing it up and then wound up chickening out; ) Being a “Strawberry Blond” figured I should probably stick with the occasional lemon juice sun-bleaching session and using Chamomile shampoo to further encourage sun-brightened Summer hair: )

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I had to think long and hard about that sentence … whether it should be ‘palms of their hands’ … i.e. plural in both cases 🙂

    I still don’t know for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alka is a sanskrit word and popular as a name among girls in India. It is not persian or arabic. It means curly hairs.
    Henna is the dried powder of leaves of ‘Henna’ tree. Doubt if I ever heard of this plant as substitute.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this. I followed Wikipedia, which says the word alkanet derives from Middle English, from Old Spanish alcaneta, diminutive of alcana (henna) from Medieval Latin alchanna, from Arabic al-ḥinnā’ (henna) : al (the) + ḥinnā (henna).


      1. I got that. That’s why my update. Most of the sanskrit words/numbers are quoted as Arabic becuase these reached Europe through persia. The numbers are another example. The stan in Pakistan is also a sanskrit/hindi word means place. All central asian countries use it as suffix to its name. Some central asian countries do count ing in a “bhojpuri” type dialect which is a derivative of sanskrit. Actually Sanskrit is to all languages of India, what Latin is to English.
        Coming back to alka, I associated it to intimate connection rather than a derivative of another derivative of another derivative.


        1. Thanks, and it reminds me that I still have a half-read copy of The Discovery Of India on the shelf – nine years it has been sitting there waiting.
          As you know, in English there are many words that are similar but arrived by different routes from different origins. But I agree that there is an intimation of a connection with alka and ‘curly hair’. I just read an article that suggests that henna loosens curls because the henna deposits in the hair and weighs it down. So maybe.


        2. Urdu word for henna is ‘Mehndi’. Henna adds to hairs and add volume too. Henna has a property to cool down as well. It is important here when we need to col down from temperature of 42+ during noon every day in May and June.
          Though I have never used it. It is more common for use on hands and feet for decoration by women on special occasions including marriage.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. An interesting little plant. I have not heard of it, but immediately it brought to mind my borage! So, it is indeed related.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: