Ballota nigra L.

2657. Ballota nigra L., Sp. Pl., ed. I (1753) 582; Hayek Prodr. Fl. Penins Balc., Ill (1931) 278; Patzak, Fl. Eur., III (1972) 150 Черно кандилниче 

Fam:   Labiatae Juss. (Lamiaceae)
Genus:   Ballota L.
Species: Ballota nigra L.
English Name: Black horehound


Perennial plant. The rhizome is short, creeping. Stem (30) 50-100 (130) cm, upright, rarely leaning, simply or at the top more or less branched; when the main stem is broken, a number of lateral branches are developed. Lower stem leaves ovate to oblong egg-shaped with sickle or wedge-shaped base, serrated to more or less deeply toothed, 3 - 8 cm long, 2 - 6 cm wide; leaf stems usually short, rarely up to 8 cm. Inflorescences in dihasis with multiple blossoms, in the bosom of gradually decreasing to the top inflorescence leaves. The bracts styliform or filamentous, 3 - 9 mm long, usually shorter than the calyx tube. The calyx a bell-shaped or trumpet bell, 7 - 13 mm long, with 5 identical tapering teeth shorter than the tube. Twilight crown, 9 - 15 mm, pink, purple, rare white; the upper lip is straight or slightly curved, with hairs on the outside, the lower one with three parts, the middle back ovoid; the gum tube hidden or just beyond the calyx, at the top of it with a ring of hairs. The stamens 4, parallel, located below the upper lip, the outer two longer; anthers with separated anther bags. Walnuts obliquely back, heart-shaped, rounded, pink.


Subs, nigra; B. ruderalis Sw. in Palmstruch, Svensk Bot. (1809) 6; 389; B. nigra subsp. (Sw.) Briq., Engler, Nat. Pflancenfam, 4 / За, (1897) 259. The teeth of the calyx elongated triangularly tapering with an oval; longer than broad. Distributed.
Subsp. foetida, Hayek, 1. s. The teeth of the calyx triangular ovate with sharp awn; almost twice as wide as long. Distributed.

From  : „Флора на Н. Р. България”, том IX, БАН, София, (1989)

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Ballota nigra (black horehound) is a perennial herb of the family Lamiaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and to central Asia, and it can be found throughout Europe. It is also naturalized in Argentina, New Zealand, and the Eastern United States.[1][2][3][4][5] It blooms in the Northern Hemisphere from May to August.

Ballota nigra has a very strong characteristic smell that reminds of mould or humidity, and can be recognised by its clusters of hairy, reddish-purple flowers. It can grow up to 3 feet in height.


Stem and root

It has herbaceous ascending stems, wooden and branched at bottom, covered by down folded hairs. The plant has a taproot system.


Leaves are opposite and decussate, and range from oval-lanceolate to heart-shaped, with crenate or dentate border. Leaves, dark green and usually pubescent, measure 3–8 cm per 2–6 cm, and have 1–3 cm petiole. Upper face is wrinkled, with a net-like vein pattern.


Flowers are organized in verticillasters, subspherical to about one-sided, with 15 to 30 flowers. Each verticillaster consist of two condensed dichasial cymes at axils of normal leaves.
Flower has an actinomorphic calyx (length 9–10 mm, width 7 mm), made up by five sepals fused together in a tube with five teeths; and a labiate corolla of 12–13 mm, ranging from pink to pale purple to withish. The corolla consist of a tube of about 6 mm and two lips; the upper one slightly concave (like a hood) and externally hairy; the lower one glabrous, with two minor lateral lobes and a major central bifid lobe. There are four didynamous stamens, running parallel under the upper lip, with glabrous filaments and yellow anthers. Ovary is superior, with a single white style and a 2-parted stigma.
Below the calyx there are five filiform bracts, 8 mm long.


Each fertilized flower produces a tetrad of black nutlets, cylindrical to ovoid, 2 mm long, partially or fully covered by the calyx. The basal end is flat and attached to the receptacle, while the top end is rounded or pointed.


Ballota nigra contains diterpenoids like marrubiin, ballonigrin, ballotinone, ballotenol and 7-acetoxymarrubiin. Also, it contains phenylpropanoids that have shown to be antioxidants.[citation needed]

Taxonomy and etymology

The plant was described by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum (May 1753). The name Ballota comes from the Greek ballo (to reject), because of the strong offensive odor of the plant; cattle will not eat it. The specific name nigra could refer to the black colour of dried leaves.
The common name comes from the Old English words har, meaning "downy or hoary", and hune, meaning the plant itself. This name refers to the hairs that give the herb its distinctive appearance. In modern times, alternative medicine practitioners have referred to the plant as "seed of Horus"[6] and suggested that horehound takes its name from Horus, the Egyptian sun god.

Distribution and habitat

Ballota nigra is a nitrophilous plant; it grows in ruins, fallows and hedges, up to 1300 m. It prefers loose, calcareous (alkaline) soils. It tolerates temperatures as low as -5°/-10 °C.


Usually, the plant is used dry, harvested when blooming. Syrups can be made from fresh plants.


Recognized subspecies:[1]

  1. Ballota nigra subsp. anatolica P.H.Davis - Iran, Turkey
  2. Ballota nigra subsp. anomala Greuter - Greece
  3. Ballota nigra subsp. foetida (Vis.) Hayek - central + southern Europe; naturalized in Sweden, Ukraine, Cyprus, Turkey, Argentina
  4. Ballota nigra subsp. kurdica P.H.Davis - Iran, Iraq, Turkey
  5. Ballota nigra subsp. nigra - southern Europe, Great Britain, Sweden, Caucasus, Iran, Turkey; naturalized in Belgium, New Zealand, Argentina
  6. Ballota nigra subsp. ruderalis (Sw.) Briq. - Mediterranean region; Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores
  7. Ballota nigra subsp. sericea (Vandas) Patzak - Albania, Macedonia, Greece
  8. Ballota nigra subsp. velutina (Posp.) Patzak - Slovenia, Croatia; naturalized in Argentina

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Flowering Time: Blooms: VI - IX, Fruitful VII - X.

References: „Флора на Н. Р. България”, том IX, БАН, София, (1989), Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Distribution in Bulgaria: Grow on grassy, rocky and bushy places, weed in the gardens, stormy roads, courtyards, gardens, trenches in the lowlands and the mountains. Widespread from sea level up to 1000 m altitude. (Conspectus of the Bulgarian Vascular Flora) = conspectus&gs_l= Zlc.
Distribution: North, Middle and Atlantic Europe, the Mediterranean, Southwest Asia.

Conservation status and threats: not protected species in Bulgaria by the Biodiversity Law. - Biological Diversity Act -

Medical plant: yes, it is - Medicinal Plants Act -

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