Alpine witch herb

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Alpine witch herb
Alpine witch's herb (Circaea alpina)

Alpine witch's herb ( Circaea alpina )

Eurosiden II
Order : Myrtle-like (Myrtales)
Family : Evening primrose family (Onagraceae)
Subfamily : Onagroideae
Genre : Witch Herbs ( Circaea )
Type : Alpine witch herb
Scientific name
Circaea alpina

The alpine witch's herb , also called mountain witch's herb and little witch's herb ( Circaea alpina ), is a species from the plant genus of the witch's herbs (Circaea) in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae). It used to have an ethnobotanical meaning as a magic plant. It was mainly used as a psychoactive aphrodisiac. The name Circaea is based on the Greek sorceress Circe , who is said to have a particularly captivating effect on men ( charm ). This is probably based on the Velcro fruits that quickly stick to clothing.


Contrary to its name, the alpine witch's herb also occurs outside the Alps. It grows in moist deciduous or mixed coniferous forests and occurs particularly in ravine or alluvial forests, avoiding calcareous soils. Its main occurrence is in the plant formation of swamp and alluvial forests and its main occurrence in deciduous and fir forests in medium-sized locations. It occurs in the temperate climatic zones of the southern and northern hemisphere ( circumpolar ) from flat to montane regions of the mountains. In Germany the species occurs in large parts of Germany, but is on the red list of vascular plants in some federal states. In the Saarland, its stocks have even completely disappeared.

The Alpine witch's herb occurs in Central Europe in the Aceri-Fagetum from the Fagion association, in the Circaeo-Alnetum from the Alno-Ulmion association and also in other societies of the Fagetalia order. In the Allgäu Alps it rises to an altitude of 1400 meters.


The Alpine witch's herb is a deciduous, perennial plant species with subterranean runners, which are also known as hibernacles . The species is only about 4 to 20 cm tall and forms relatively thin, bulbous, thickened subterranean runners. As a result, it often forms small, but dense stands. The also quite thin, upright stem is only slightly branched on top and at most a little downy hairy at the time of flowering. The leaves are ovate to rounded, heart-shaped at the base. They are more or less sharply toothed at their edges. The leaf blade shines in a characteristic way. The plant forms small, permanent lower leaves on the rhizome. The flower stalks have rapidly falling bracts, which are almost transparent and shiny green. The flowers are in several groups on an elongated grape axis. The hooked or bristly petals are only max. 2 mm long and nailed clearly. The scar is heady. The pear-like shaped nuts are single-fan and lonely. They have long, hook-shaped bristles.

The alpine witch's herb blooms between June and August. The flowers are pollinated by insects, the fruits stick to animals through Velcro.

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 22.


The division into subspecies is questionable according to recent literature. There are:

  • Circaea alpina subsp. alpina
  • Circaea alpina subsp. pacifica (Ash. & Magnus) PHRaven .


  1. Flora Web: Pflanzenarten/druck.xsql?suchnr=1553&sipnr=1553&
  2. Ruprecht Düll , Herfried Kutzelnigg : Pocket dictionary of plants in Germany. A botanical-ecological excursion companion to the most important species . 6th, completely revised edition. Quelle & Meyer, Wiebelsheim 2005, ISBN 3-494-01397-7 .
  3. a b Erich Oberdorfer : Plant-sociological excursion flora for Germany and neighboring areas . With the collaboration of Angelika Schwabe and Theo Müller. 8th, heavily revised and expanded edition. Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart (Hohenheim) 2001, ISBN 3-8001-3131-5 , pp.  690 .
  4. Erhard Dörr, Wolfgang Lippert : Flora of the Allgäu and its surroundings. Volume 2, IHW, Eching 2004, ISBN 3-930167-61-1 , p. 256.
  5. Eckehart J. Jäger, Klaus Werner (Ed.): Exkursionsflora von Deutschland . Founded by Werner Rothmaler. 10th edited edition. tape 4 : Vascular Plants: Critical Volume . Elsevier, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Munich / Heidelberg 2005, ISBN 3-8274-1496-2 .

Web links

Commons : Circaea alpina  - album with pictures, videos and audio files