Somerset’s Rare Honewort

Female plant of Honewort, Trinia glauca, near exposed limestone at Cross Quarry. © Karen Andrews

Honewort, Trinia glauca, is a Somerset rarity that is easily overlooked. It does not wave about in the breeze right under your nose like many other umbelliferous members of the Apiaceae or Carrot family. It hugs dry, limestone ground and rocky outcrops. Nonetheless, I found it eye-catching this May at Sand Point because it flowered in large numbers on the south-facing slopes. Isn’t it great to see a rare wild flower thriving in its natural environment – even if it is not considered a great beauty?

Male and Female Plants

Honewort is dioecious, i.e. it has separate male and female plants. Stace explains that female plants have longer more unequal rays and fewer, longer-pedicelled flowers than male plants. The female plant tends to be harder to spot. You have to look closely for 2 stigmas on female plants as opposed to 5 stamens on male plants. Honewort is reliant on ants for pollination. Separate-sex plants could pose a threat to the ongoing survival of this national rarity found in only a few West Country locations today.

Flowering Period

Another interesting fact about Honewort is that it is monocarpic. This botanical term means that it flowers only once, sets seed and dies. The plant is a biennial rather than an annual however. If the turf is heavily grazed, it can become perennial awaiting its opportunity to flower. It is seemingly a patient plant and may wait up to 16 years to flower. I have seen it regularly flowering in its preferred habitat between May and June, before its family member Rock Samphire, Crithmum maritimum, further along Sand Point.


Honewort enjoys an open, limestone habitat. Sand Point is managed by the National Trust. Active land management involves balanced grazing and scrub clearance. This helps to ensure that Honewort is not shaded out by tall plants and survives.

Botanical Latin Name

Honewort’s Latin genus is named after the German botanist, Carl (Karl) Bernhard Freiherr von Trinius (1778-1844). He was a German-born physician who commanded great respect in Tsarist Russia. He wrote numerous works and was a grass specialist.

Although not visible in my photos above, the epithet glauca describes the greyish-green leaves. The term comes to botanical Latin via Greek. It originally appears to have meant glimmering or shimmering related to the sea. Stearn describes it as a light sea-green. This seems entirely appropriate for a species on a coastal cliff-top, except of course that the sea around Sand Point is, unfortunately, not a green colour and rarely shimmers.

Glaucus was a Greek mortal fisherman turned into a prophetic sea god by a potion. He rescued fishermen and sailors. Let’s hope the short-turfed, coastal environment at Sand Point will ensure the ongoing survival of this unusual Somerset rarity.

Blue sky and green grass at the National Trust’s Sand Point. Unfortunately, the sea is its characteristically local, muddy-brown colour. © Karen Andrews

References and Further Reading

Copyright Note

Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

© Karen Andrews 2018 onwards. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Andrews and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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