Posted: Thursday 8th January 2015 by The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Tormentil. © Neil WyattTormentil. © Neil Wyatt

Volunteer Ranger Abbie Pailing tells us a little about one of her favourite plants that can be found here on Scilly, the understated Tormentil.


One of my favourite flowering plants on Scilly is Tormentil (Potentilla erecta). Before arriving on Scilly I had never heard of Tormentil, but from spending the summer here it fast became my favourite as it is so common and easy to spot. It is part of the rose family, as is the strawberry, and this can be seen by the leaves of the plant. It is a four petalled yellow flower which can range in size quite dramatically on Scilly depending on where it is growing; whether it has been exposed to the sea breeze or not. It is a very common plant and can be found on almost all the environments found on Scilly.


The Tormentil plant is named from the Latin word Tormentum, meaning agony as its roots were used for medicinal purposes to relieve pain. Its roots can be used to make a yellow or red dye, and it is usually used to dye leather red. It also produces nectar for solitary bees and on the mainland there is even a Tormentil bee (Andrena tarsata) which lives off the plant.


Tormentil is one of the first plants that will grow within barren land, particularly on heathland. Here on Scilly, when areas of heathland are cleared, Tormentil is one of the pioneer plants. This allows us to see when the land management we carry out is working, as we are allowing smaller flowering plants to flourish.

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