Stoneflowers, Magnifolium lapideum

Magnifolium lapideum is one of the tallest stone flowers in the shelter.

Strictly speaking, it is not a flower, but a leaf, inspired by the large butterbur leaves

Butterburs on a river bank, Photo Fritz Geller-Grimm

Anyone who has already been hiking along a river in the mountains or in the foothills of the Alps knows this plant whose large leaves are often used as temporary hats and sun protection, not only by children.

As a child, my wife called them Tyrolean hats, while we called them elephant ears on excursions with the boy scouts in the Mangfall Valley or along the Leitzach river.

During various adventure games you could hide very nicely under the dense foliage.

I couldn't find out with absolute certainty where the butterbur got its German name "pest root" from.

In the Middle Ages, butterbur was used to treat the plague. However, there are different statements about how this should have worked exactly.

The most plausible seems to me that butterbur was used against malignant ulcers caused by the plague, already by the Greeks and Romans.

However, the plant had no demonstrable effect against the plague.

However, we now know that many of the preparations propagated in folk medicine, for example as an expectorant cough suppressant, can be associated with considerable, dangerous side effects.

As a layman, it is better to keep your hands off butterbur teas or the like.

What should be safe, on the other hand, is its use as a coolant for insect bites.


Another theory says that its botanical name Petasites, whose origin is the Greek word "Petasos" (a hat with a broad brim), and refers to the very large leaves, was simply transferred incorrectly.

Alpine Butterbur, Photo: Griensteidl

The large leaves also served very unmedical purposes. For example, butter was wrapped in it to keep it cool in pre-refrigerator times.

The English name for the plant "Butterbur" most probably has its origins there.

Archaeological finds in the world's oldest salt mine, the Salzberg near Hallstatt, have shown that the leaves of a butterbur species were also used as toilet paper in the Bronze Age.

The popular name Arschwurz (ass root) for the plant is still used in Bavaria today.

Magnifolium lapideum can hardly be used for the latter purpose.

It is not really suitable for medical purposes either, apart of the relaxing effect it might have if you watch this "stone blossom" in meditative contemplation.

On the photo you still can see Magnifolium lapideum in the vault of the "Shelter" exhibition.

In the meantime however it has found a temporary new home in the gardens of Villa La Rogaia in Umbria.

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