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White Bryony

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This wild plant is white bryony briona alba, a member of the cucumber family. Its fruits look like tiny gourds. The name bryonia comes via Latin from Greek βρυονια but there doesn't seem to be any information about its ultimate origins.

The plant is quite poisonous and in countries where it it is an introduced species it can be highly invasive, because it is capable of growing as much as 15 cm aday. However in my garden it is fairly harmless and quite decorative.

The plant is mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon medical treatise, the Old English Leechdoms  (ca.1150). There is also a rather unlikely story that Augustus Caesar wore bryony round his neck during thunderstorms to ward off lightening, see  https://www.walkerland.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/The-Old-English-Herbals-Eleanour-Sinclair-Rohde.pdf

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