Astrantia major, the great masterwort, is a species of flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to central and eastern Europe. Growing to 90 cm (35 in) tall by 45 cm (18 in) broad, it is an herbaceous perennial, much used in gardens.
Description & appearanceAstrantia major reaches on average 60 centimetres (24 in) of height. The stem is erect and glabrous, with little branches and few leaves. The basal leaves have a long petiole 10–20 centimetres (3.9–7.9 in), 3 to 7 lobes and toothed segments. Size: 8–15 centimetres (3.1–5.9 in). The cauline leaves are generally two, sessile, amplexicaul and lanceolate-shaped with a trilobed apex. The inflorescence is umbrella-shaped, with 2–3 centimetres (0.79–1.18 in) of diameter. The floral bracts are numerous (10 - 20), 10–18 millimetres (0.39–0.71 in) long, reddish (sometimes white) with acuminate apex.
The small flowers are greenish-white with reddish shades. The central ones are hermaphrodite, while the external ones are male. The petals are five, white (or slightly reddened), while the stamens are five and much longer. Size of the flowers: about 1 mm. The flowering period extends from June through September.
The plant also produces an essential oil, that can be used in herbal medicines. It also contains an Amino acid.
Astrantia major is an entomophilous plant, mainly pollinated by beetles, but also by other insects. This perennial plant reproduces itself also by means of buds present at the ground level.
DistributionThis plant is native to southern Europe (Pyrenees, Carpathians and Balkans), but also in the Caucasus up to Anatolia. It has been in the British Isles since the 16th Century. It has also naturalized in Shropshire near Stokesay Castle, and in Worcestershire.
It is common in mountain meadows and grasslands, in forests and clearings and close to the streams, usually on calcareous soils, at an altitude of 100–2,300 metres (330–7,550 ft) above sea level.