This perennial blooms virtually anywhere (open fields, hedgerows, woodland, and stream banks) but in particular relishes the shade and damp areas.
It rarely stays discrete for long and quickly establishes an impressive stand spreading into any available space quickly.
One of the quintessential “weeds” which is often dismissed or even disliked, it is respected amongst the wise traveller for its diverse range of uses.
Personally this is one of my favorite plants to be found, partly because it is so common, it has just so many uses, but also due to the impressive stands that often occur, it`s stunning spike of pink flowers giving a dramatic display.
The seeds in autumn and those remnants of the previous year are fine and feathery, perfect for using as (fine) tinder, or use the whole seed heads which have their matchstick thin stems and branches, providing courser tinder depending on your particular method.
The larger, older leaves can be put into boiling water to steep (10-15mins), giving a light and refreshing taste.
The leaves can also be dried and stored for a number of weeks, placed into a cafeteria , once again steeped in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, it gives a richer, more rounded and slightly bitter taste.
The leaves from younger plants or those at the growing tip can be eaten as a salad leaf.
Quick to become bitter, choose those no larger than the size of your thumb.
They can also be lightly steamed or boiled.
With the pith and stem removed, the outer layer can be dried, moistened and turned into cordage which is suitable for small, simple tasks like decoration and picture frames where durability is not an essential quality.
The outer layer is best collected in late July/August as by this point it is thicker and more robust.
This article has been written as a guide to further learning.
Please ensure that you are taking the time to completely study any plant before using them by using field guides or by attending courses.
If you are ingesting any form of plant material, ensure you are aware of the environmental quality of the area you are collecting from and that you are 120% clear as to the identity of that plant.
If in doubt, leave it out!