Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

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Chamomile fact file

Chamomile description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderAsterales
FamilyAsteraceae
GenusChamaemelum (5)

Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a low-growing plant with finely divided leaves, which are arranged alternately on the stem (2). The daisy-like flowers have a yellow central disk framed with silvery-white petals (2). When crushed, the plant gives off a scent akin to that of apples or bubblegum (3), and this trait led to the origin of the common name; 'chamaimelon' means 'ground apple' (4).

Also known as
Roman chamomile.
Synonyms
Anthemis nobilis.
Size
Height: up to 30 cm (2)
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Chamomile biology

The flowers of this perennial plant appear from June to August (2), and have been widely used for many years for a variety of purposes; they are known to have certain medicinal properties and are used as an antispasmodic and an anti-inflammatory, and the essential oil is used in aromatherapy as a soothing agent (5). Chamomile flowers have also been used to make herbal teas and beers, and are known to repel insects when both living and dried (5). Chamomile lawns have been popular in the past, and 'chamomile seats' were a common feature of Elizabethan herb gardens (3).

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Chamomile range

This plant was once found throughout most of England, but has always been more common towards the south (3). It is now unfortunately scarce in the UK, and is most common in the extreme south-west and Hampshire (3), with remaining strongholds in the Lizard Point Cornwall, Dartmoor and the New Forest (3). Elsewhere the species occurs naturally in Western Europe, North Africa and the Azores and as a garden escapee in North America (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Chamomile habitat

The main natural habitats of this species are grazed grasslands on cliff-tops, heaths, commons and village greens with moderately acid clay soils (6). At present it thrives in a number of cricket pitches, where mowing and rolling create ideal short turf conditions (3).

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Chamomile status

Classified as Nationally Scarce in Great Britain (1).

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Chamomile threats

The main cause of the drastic decline of this once widespread species has been the cessation of grazing in many areas, particularly on village commons (3).

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Chamomile conservation

Chamomile is included in Plantlife's 'Back from the Brink' programme.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

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Authentication

Information authenticated by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity:
http://www.plantlife.org.uk

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Glossary

Perennial
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
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References

  1. Plants for a Future (March 2002):
    http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/cgi-bin/pfaf/arr_html?Chamaemelum+nobile&CAN=COMIND
  2. Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products. Guide to Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. (March 2002):
    http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/med-aro/factsheets/CHAMOMILE.html
  3. JNCC (March 2002):
    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/species/pstatus/p4_2_1.htm
  4. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  5. Grigson, G. (1996) The Englishman's Flora. Helicon Publishing Ltd., Oxford
  6. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary ( July 2002)
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
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Image credit

Chamomile flowers  
Chamomile flowers

© Bob Gibbons / Natural Image

Natural Image
24 Newborough Rd
Wimborne
Dorset
BH21 1RD
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1202 675 916
Fax: +44 (0) 1202 848 419
bobgibbons@btinternet.com

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