The physic garden at the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh was designed to reflect the importance of plants to mankind throughout the ages. The plants were evaluated for seasonal interest, historical merit and medicinal value before being carefully placed to suit the confined space. Below is a more in-depth description of the species that can be found in each of the garden's four themed beds.


Features plants included in the writings of the Roman and Greek herbalists Pliny, Theopharastus and Dioscorides. Other plants were selected from the writings of the Emperor Charlemagne, who decreed that medicinal plants should be cultivated throughout the land to aid his troops.

Common Name Latin Name Comment in Codex Vindobonensis, Dioscorides
Bugle Ajuga reptans "Being beaten small with figs and given like a pill it mollifies ye belly"
Autumn crocus Colchicum autumnale "Being eaten it killeth by choking like to ye mushrumps"
Tree heath Erica arborea "The leafe and the flowers hereof do heale the bitings of serpents"
Spurge Euphorbia myrsinites "If one having cut ye skin of ye head even unto the bone, do pour in ye liquor beaten small, & sew up ye wound"
Christmas rose Helleborus niger "Arthritis, Epilepsy and a variety of skin infections"
Bearded iris Iris germanica "Have a warming, extenuating facultie, fitting against coughs & extenuating grosse humoures hard to get up"
Savin Juniperus sabina Is diuretical, therefore is good for convulsion, ruptures and those who have strangled uteruses"
Madonna lily Lilium candidum It cleareth ye faces & makes them without wrinkles"
Pheasant's-eye Narcissus Narcissus poeticus "Being laid on with Loliacean meal, & honey it draws out splinters"
Hart's tongue   fern Phyllitis scolopendrium "The leaves of this being drank with wine are good for ye serpent-bitten"
Elder Sambucus nigra
'Plumosa Aurea'
"It softens ye Matrix and opens ye passages"
    Comment in Historia Plantarum, Theophrastus

Yellow Asphodel

Asphodeline lutea "Put before the doors of Roman villas as a remedy for sorcery and magic"
    Comment in The Illustrated Bartsch
Silver Birch Betula pendula "A sickly infant was strengthened by placing oven-dried birch leaves in his cot"
Lovage Levisticum officinale "For tooth ache and removing spots from the skin, as a wound ointment for earaches and kidney stones"
Sumach Rhus "It stops vomiting, in an enema it halts dysentery"
Houseleek Sempervivum tectorum "It cures abscesses, making them scab over firmly, stops nose bleed and aids hearing"
    Comment in Bankes's Herball
Common Polypody Polypodium vulgare "It hath the virtue of dissolving, of drawing and of purging phlegm"



Focuses on the rise of herbalism in Great Britain from the late 15th to the 17th century, with the work of the well known herbalist and botanist William Turner, considered to be the father of English botany after the publication of his book A New Herball, between 1551 and 1561.

Common Name Latin Name Comment in The Names of Herbes, Wiliam Turner
  Acanthus mollis "The leaves have power to drive humours to their places"
  Actaea spicata "It may be called in English Grapewurt because it hath many blacke berries in the toppes like Grapes"
Spindle tree Euonymus europaeus "It may be called Englishe longe cherry tree. The female is plituous in Englande and the butchers make prickes of it"
Jerusalem sage Phlomis fruticosa "It is much grown in the gardens of England. Let learned men examine and judge"
    Comment in Theatre of Plants, John Parkinson
Lady fern Athyrium filix-femina "The green leaves are said to open the belly and moveth it downwards"
Guelder rose Viburnum opulus "Used as a sedative in the treatment of cramp, particularly uterine dysfunctions"
    Comment in The Herball, John Gerard
Scottish heather Calluna vulgaris
'Peter Sparkes'
"The tender tips and flowers are good to be laid upon the bitings and stingings of any venomous beasts"
Dogs tooth violet Erythronium denscanis "It provoketh bodily lust if it be only handled, but much more if it be drunke with wine"
Siberian iris Iris sibirica
"There is an excellent oile made of the flowers and rootes called Oleum trinum: which oile profiteth much to strengthen the sinews and joints"
Lent lily Narcissus
"The roots have such wonderful qualities in drying that they conound and glue together very great wounds"
Scots pine cv. Pinus sylvestris
"The kernels of the nuts make rough parts smooth and are remedy against old cough"
Mountain ash Sorbus aucuparia "They stay all manner of fluxes in the belly, the bloody flux and vomiting"
Laurustinus Viburnum tinus "Pliny nor any of the other ancients have touched the faculties of this herb"
Periwinkle Vinca major "A handful of leaves stamped and the juice given to drink in red wine, stoppeth the spitting of blood"
Heart's-ease Viola tricolor "The later physicians think it good to mix dry violets with medicines that are to comfort and strengthen the heart"
    Comment in The English Physician, Culpeper
Foxglove Digitalis purpurea "The herb is frequently used by the Italians to heal any fresh or green wound"
Stinkwort Helleborus foetidus "The root of stinkwort being grated and sniffed up the nose, causeth sneezing. Kills rats and mice being mixed with their meat"
Irish juniper Juniperus communis
"They are excellent good against the bitings of venomous beasts, they provoke urine exceedingly and therefore are very available to dysenteries and stranguaries"
Cowslip Primula veris "Salves for wounded limbs"
Primrose Primula vulgaris "Salves for wounded limbs"
Lungwort Pulmonaria officinalis "To help the disease of the lungs and for coughs, wheezings and shortness of breath"



Celebrates the contribution made by Philip Miller and Elizabeth Blackwell, as well as the discoveries of new plant treatments from the Americas.

Common Name Latin Name Comment in Plants, People and Paecology, F B King
Box elder Acer negundo "Used by the Ojibwa and Meskwaki as an emetic"
  Geranium maculatum "Root used by Mesawaki and Ojibwa Indians to treat sore gums and pyrohhea"
Ostrich fern Matteuccia struthiopteris "Used by the Menominee as a poultice"
    Comment in Medicina Britannica, T Short
Columbine Aquilegia vulgaris "A Dram of its seed, given with a little saffron, is a certain cure for jaundice"
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium "It is warming and drying, strengthens the stomach and liver, excites an appetite, opens obstructions and cures diseases therefrom"
Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum "Leaves and flowers are cleaning, resolving and digesting like hyssop, savory or wild margoram"
Damask rose Rosa damascena "Damask roses retain their purging quality when dry"
Wild service tree Sorbus torminalis "Remedy against the gripes and bloody flux, being a great astringent"
Thyme Thymus
'Pink Chintz'
"The juice with vinegar rubbed on dissolves clotted blood"
Periwinkle Vinca major "Is a good wound herb and astringent, proper in fluxes, dysentery, blood-spitting and discharges"
    Comment in American Medical Plants, C F Millspaugh
Black snakeroot Cimicifuga racemosa "In pregnancy it often causes abortion, and in labour will stimulate the uterus and cause rapid, painless expansion of the parts"
Dogwood Cornus florida
'Cherokee Princess'
"American Indians used the bark for fever and colic"
Evening primrose Oenothera biennis "A strong decoction of the dried herb was used as an external application in infantile eruptions"
Cornelian cherry Cornus mas "The fruit is good in fevers, especially if attended with diarrhea"
Foxglove Digitalis purpurea "Ye ointment made of the flowers and butter, for scrophulous ulcers which run much, dressing them with the ointment and purging two or three times a week with proper purges"
Male fern Dryopteris felix-mas "The root is said to be hurtful to the female sex, and to cause miscarriage; but is accounted good for obstructions of the liver and spleen"
Sea holly Eryngium maritnum "The roots are accounted hepatic and diruetic, good to open obstructions of the liver, help the jaundice, provoke urine, and the strangury"
Christmas rose Helleborus niger "The powder of the roots cause violent sneezing when sniffed up the nostrils and is rarely used without milder ingredients"
Stinking iris Iris foetidissima "Some account the root a specific for the King's Evil and scrophulous swellings both given inwardly and applied outwardly"
Solomins seal Polygonatum
"Some say a cataplasm of ye root is good to take away black and blue marks arising from contusions"
Lungwort Pulmonaria angustifolia "The leaves are accounted pectoral and balsamic good for coughs, consumptions, spitting of blood and the like disorders of the lungs"
Rue Ruta graveolens "The leaves and seed are useful, being good against all infections and pestilential diseases"
  Veratrum viride "The roots are a strong cathartic and purges with great violence"
    Comment in A Guide to Medicinal Plants of the USA, Krochmal
Hydrangea cv. Hydrangea arborescens
"A decoction of the roots and other materials was given to women who had unusual dreams"
Bull ban Magnolia grandiflora "Indians drank a warm infusion of the bark, cones, and seeds for rheumatism"
May apple Podophyllum peltatum "The use of podophyllums as a component of cathartic pills is very general"
Wake robin Trillium erectum "Trilliums are all astringent, restringent, pectoral, tonic, antiseptic, alternative etc."
    Comment in Botanalogia Universalis Hibernica, John K'Eogh
Jasmine Jasminum officinale "It cures red spots and pimples and dissolves swellings and lumps on the skin"
Salt cedar Tamarix ramosissima "Drinking a decoction opens obstructions and is good for coughs and catarrh"



Celebrates the use of plants in medicine today and looks into the future with research into the use of new plant compounds.

Common Name Latin Name Comment in A Modern Herbal, Mrs Grieve
Feverfew Chrysanthemum
parthenium 'Aureum'
"Is employed in hysterical complaints, nervousness and lowness of spirits"
Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis "Digestive, resolutive and consolidante"
Virginian witch-hazel Hamamelis virginiana "The properties of the leaves and bark are similar, astringent, tonic, sedative, internal and external haemorrhage, treatment of piles, bruises and inflammatory swellings"
Common ivy Hedera helix "To remove sunburn it is recommended to smear the face with tender ivy twigs boiled in butter"
  Hypericum olympicum "Aromatic, astringent, resolvant, expectorant"
  Hypericum patulum
"Useful in pulmonary consumption, chronic catarrh of the lungs, bowels and urinary passages"
Lemon balm Melissa officinalis "It induces a mild perspiration and makes a pleasant and cooling tea for feverish patients in cases of catarrh and influenza"
Bergamot Monarda didyma "Rubifacient, stimulant, carminative. It may be employed in chronic rheumatism, cholera infantum, or wherever rubifacients are required"
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis "Tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, stimulant. Oil of Rosemary cures many cases of headaches"
Lesser periwinkle Vinca minor
"A homeopathic tincture is prepared from the fresh leaves and is given medicinally for the milk crust of infants as well as for internal haemorrhages"
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Maidenhair tree Ginkgo biloba