Unmissable Summer Scents
Wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare) or Pribhéad in Irish bears heavily scented white flowers in June and July. (1) For hundreds of years this plant was used for hedging because its shoots regenerate quickly when cut and it afforded privacy to houses near one another. It is a deciduous shrub but if often retains some leaves if the winter is mild. The lance shaped, opposite leaves (lanceolate) are dark green on the upper parts and light green underneath.
The four-petalled white flowers emit a very unusual scent which some people love, and others despise. After pollination by long-tongued insects these turn into shiny black berries in the autumn. These are poisonous to humans if too many are eaten but birds such as blackbirds, bullfinches and thrushes eat them in winter. These were also used for dyeing fabrics in the past.
The Meadow sweet (Filipendula ulmaria) or Airgead luachra in Irish produces its masses of sweet-smelling, creamy white flowers from June to September along roadsides and in damp meadows. (2a;2b) This is a common plant especially in wet, grassy places.
For such heavily scented flowers it is strange that this plant produces no nectar. Nonetheless, it is visited by many short-tongued insects for its copious pollen.
Long ago it was used as a strewing herb. This means that it was scattered on the floors of churches, halls and houses because of its aromatic scent.
Its name is derived from “mead sweet” because it was used to flavour mead which was a traditional drink in Ireland that was made from honey.
The plant had many medicinal uses because it contains salicylic acid an important component of aspirin. It was used to treat stomach disorders and arthritis.