Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
Lion’s Foot, Bear’s Foot, Dewcup, Nine Hooks, Leontopodium, Stellaria Dewcup, Breakstone, Stellaria, Woman’s Best Friend, Nine Monks, Water Chalice Flower, Ever-Dew, Mary’s Mantle
About This Plant
Lady’s Mantle is an attractive, long-livinging perennial plant, commonly used as a ground cover (6-12 inches tall). It has rounded, soft gray-green foliage, that is scalloped-shaped and finely serrated at the edges. The leaves have hair on them and will collect dew drops or rain into mercurial-like droplets. In late Spring or early Summer, it becomes blanketed in large, branched clusters or nearly inconspicuous chartreuse blooms.
Lady’s Mantle is considered easy to grow and typically grows well in regions with cool Summers and most fertile soil (USDA zones 3-7). It can tolerate full sun, but does better in shade when grown in warmer regions. It does not like to be waterlogged and only requires regular watering if located in full sun or during times of extreme heat–even then, it only wants a quick drink.
Lady’s Mantle is an “old-fashioned” herb, ubiquitous in English cottage gardens, and used for making lotions and soaps. It grows up to 18 inches high when in flower and blooms June to September. Plants may look tired after flowering, but can be cut back hard and they’ll re-flush in the fall, often with more flowers. A mass planting is very eye-catching when in bloom. It can take two years before its first bloom. They form a nicely sized clump 1 to 2 feet wide. Plants spread very slowly by rhizomes. Lady’s Mantle can provide a much needed “resting point” in the garden without lacking interest. It blends well with other spring bloomers and looks wonderful when paired with lacy ferns and velvety hostas. They are rabbit and deer proof.
Lady’s Mantle is part of the Rosaceae family. It’s genus name, Alchemilla, comes from the word “alchemy” and is in reference to the plant’s leaves’ ability to collect dew and rain into shimmery droplets that roll around on its leaves like mercury. These water droplets were gathered from the leaves and were believed the purest form of water that might be able to turn base metals into gold. These droplets found their way into many potions and spells. It was considered a magical plant, whose dew could cure illness. Moistening a woman’s skin with the dewdrops collected from the leaves was believed to impart a “special radiance of elfin allure”.
The common name of Lady’s Mantle comes from a legend of it being used to adorn the Virgin Mary, as her cloak was thought to resemble its scalloped leaves–hence it’s “Lady’s” not “Ladies” Mantle.
Lady’s Mantle can be started indoors 8-10 weeks prior to planting out. Seeds require 3-4 weeks to germinate. Cold stratification will allow the seeds to germinate more easily. Just barely cover seeds with soil and keep evenly moist. Seedlings are easily identifiable as they have the same three-lobed leaves as the adult plants.
Seedlings can be planted outdoors when they reach 4 inches in height after the last frost. Space plants 8-12 inches apart.
Lady’s Mantle tolerates sun or shade. Allow it plenty of room to grow. It may experience some fungal problems in area of high humidity, especially if the crown is kept damp, so allow for good air circulation and allow the solid to dry slightly between waterings. It can naturalize in an area and is prone to reseeding. It can become mildly aggressive in some areas. Deadheading the flowers as they start to dry is helpful in preventing it from spreading into unwanted areas. Seedlings are easy to lift and move to another spot. The entire plant can be cut back to encourage new growth and sometimes a second-bloom. It can be divided as needed in Spring or Fall.
To collect seeds, simply allow the seed heads to dry on the plant, cut them off and break open over a container. Seed heads can also be bagged on the plant to capture seeds as they fall.
- Ground cover and edgings, rock gardens
- Wreaths and bouquets, freshly cut or dried
- Herbal cosmetics
- Leaves eaten by sheep and cattle
Young leaves are astringent but can be used in salads, sandwiches, and pesto. It is more traditionally used as a tea.
Lady’s Mantle used to be prized as one of the very best wound healing herbs, even for infected wounds and cases of gangrene. Roots and leaves were mashed and used as poultices. The plant is anti-inflammatory and astringent. Lady’s Mantle, however, is considered chiefly, an herb for women. A tea of its leaves is used for easing menstrual pain. It is said to help regulate menstruation. It is used late in pregnancy as a uterine tonic, to strengthen the uterus–usually prescribed as a tea made from the flowers. Larger amounts can bring on labour. It is usually consumed as a tea made out of dried leaves and stems. It is also used for making lotions and soaps.
Lady’s Mantle is native to Turkey and the Carpathian Mountains. Alchemilla is an aggregate of species collectively referred to as “Lady’s Mantle”. It is native to the cool, temperate regions of Europe and Asia, with some species cultivated in North America. Its native habitat includes meadows, woodland clearings, and pastures.