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Wild liquorice

Wild liquorice (Astragalus glycyphyllos )has the alternative name of milk-vetch, from the former commonly held belief that goats that ate the plant would yield more milk.

It grows in scattered location in Great Britain, in rough grassy places on chalk and limestone, but is absent from Ireland. It is a temperate plant that is also found across much of northern and central Europe as far east as the Caucasus.

Wild liquorice is difficult to spot because it often grows among tall grasses and its greenish-cream flowers blend with the colour of its foliage. 

It is a straggling plant that can grow up to 40 inches (100 cm) in height. It has smooth, trailing stems and many hairless leaflets. The stems bend each time they give rise to a leaf, which makes them zigzag. 

The plant flowers in July and August, many flowers being carried on stalks that are shorter than the leaves. The pods are smooth and curved, with a central division such that several seeds are produced on each side of the “wall”.

Wild liquorice is not the plant from which laxatives and food flavourings are produced. However, the root stems of both wild and true liquorice can be chewed – the botanical name glycyphyllos means “sweet stem”.

(The photo is taken from a copyright-free source)

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