NASTURTIUM (Tropaeolum majus) – Indian cress

Chile, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia

Nasturtium ‘Alaska’ with bee

Introduced to Europe from Peru in the 16oos, the Nasturtium is now a favourite summer ornamental, flowering from midsummer to first frosts. Perennial in its native countries, it is an annual here.

A generous blanket of disc-shaped leaves is the backdrop for its sumptuous trumpet-shaped flowers in YELLOWS, ORANGES & REDS.

Nasturtium needs no special treatment, no fertilizer… only water & sunshine (the sunniest position produces more flowers).

If Blackfly or Greenfly are a problem, & ladybirds or birds not keeping numbers down, spray the plant with a little dilute washing-up liquid. Aphids dislike the slick coating on the leaves.

Deadheading blooms that have gone over persuades the plant to produce more flowers.

Nasturtium will struggle to bloom in extreme heat, over 100 degrees F, & does not survive our cold & wet winters, dying with first frosts.

Honeybee in NasturtiumNasturtium, mint                                Bees’ Favourite

Tropaeolum’s bright flowers attract the bees, who land on the lower petals, climb inside the flower spur & emerge covered in pollen.

Once pollinated the flower bows down with its spur in the air, signalling to pollinators that they must look elsewhere for nectar.

 

 

Wildlife

Nasturtium leaves are a food plant for the Dot Moth and the Garden Carpet Moth. The plant is used by gardeners to keep caterpillars of the Large White (Cabbage White) Butterfly off their brassicas.

Dot Moth

Garden Carpet Moth

Cabbage White Butterfly

 

“In its native countries the nasturtium is pollinated by hummingbirds which dip their beaks deep into the spur in order to reach the sweet and slightly pungent nectar.”    Nasturtium – Dr Hauschka –
https://www.drhauschka.com/plant-glossary/nasturtium/

 

Medicinal & Herbal

“Nasturtium was used in folk medicine as a remedy against scurvy, and can be used as a natural, warming remedy to help the body overcome and prevent the common cold and influenza. It was also used traditionally to treat muscular pain, and its antimicrobial properties extend to its use as a topical treatment for bacterial infections and minor scrapes and cuts.”  Medicinal Uses of Nasturtium, herbblurb 2017, https://herbblurb.com/2017/09/14/medicinal-uses-of-nasturtium/

“According to the daughter of Linnaeus, the blossoms of Nasturtium have been observed to emit electric sparks towards evening. It is seen most distinctly with the eye partly closed.

In Alsace the nasturtium flowers are added to fermenting wine to impart a particular pungency.” Medicinal Herb Info  .  http://medicinalherbinfo.org/000Herbs2016/

 

 Historical

Native to Peru in South America, the Nasturtium grows on the mountain slopes of the Andes Mountains.

“The French, German and Spanish names of nasturtium all derive from the Italian cappucio hood; especially a monk’s cowl; the name was given because of the resemblance of the spurred flowers to the cowl of a Capuchin monk. The Latin name Tropaeolum is derived from the Latin tropaeum which means the trunk of a tree hung with battle spoils (such as weapons and armor) and is also the origin of the word trophy. If we see the leaves as shields and the flowers as helmets the origin of this name becomes clear.

 

The nasturtium was not introduced to Europe until 1684. For a long time it was used only as an ornamental plant, later in spring salads. Incidentally, the unripe buds and seeds can also be preserved in vinegar and used as a substitute for capers.

 

In the Victorian Language of Flowers, floriography, the Nasturtium was said to represent conquest, victory in battle, patriotism.      https://sharonlathanauthor.com › floriography-n-o-and-p-flowers

 

” Nasturtiums came to North America the long way. Discovered in Peru in the 1500’s, two species were taken back to Spain as vegetables. It was a Dutch botanist who took the then short plants and developed the twisting vine Linnaeus named. Soon they were being grown for their flowers as well and spread across Europe. Then they came to North America with immigrants as early as 1759. Nasturtiums were also known as Indian Cress or Capucine Cress, in reference to the shape of the flower that was also similar to Capucine monks’ robe hoods.

Edible

Thomas Jefferson planted nasturtiums in his garden from at least 1774 on. He pickled the seeds and categorized the Nasturtium as a fruit along with the tomato (which is botanically a fruit but legally a vegetable. That came from a US supreme court ruling in the 1890s and involved different taxation rates for fruits, vegetables, and seeds. Since tomatoes — and beans — were used as vegetables rather than fruit and seeds, respectively, they were to be taxed like vegetables.)”   Green Deane, Growables, Grow Florida Edibles, From Eat the Weeds and Other things too, www.eattheweeds.com

 

Grow Nasturtium from Seed

The RHS recommends this flower as one for children to grow; all parts are edible.  https://www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/gardening-children-schools/family-activities/Grow-it-!/grow/nasturtium

 

How to Grow Nasturtium from Seed in Containers . Project Diaries . Youtube
https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=project+diaries+++nasturtiums

Always excellent hints & tips from Lee at Project Diaries.

 ‘Alaska’ has lime green leaves with creamy mottling and flowers in shades of YELLOW and ORANGE

Nasturtium 'Alaska'Nasturtium Alaska, closeup

Damson resin on Nasturtium 'Alaska'

We have also grown Empress of India, with its rich RED flowers and dark, bottle-green leaves.

Empress of India seed packetBumblebee two on Nasturtium Whirleybird

 

The YELLOW and ORANGE flowers of ‘Whirlybird’ have no flower funnels, but the bees don’t mind.

 

Other names:

Blomkarse (Norwegian), Blomsterkarse (Danish), Capuchina, Capuchin Monk, Capucine, Cresson d’Inde, Grande Capucine (French), Kapuzinerkresse (German), Koynnoskrassi (Finnish), Lark-heel, Mexican Cress,  Monks Cress, Peruvian Cress, Nose-tweaker, Nose-twister, The ‘nasties’, Tradgardskrasse (Swedish).

 

My first Nasturtium had masses of leaves but few flowers; friend Eileen said “You want poor soil! Find yourself some builders’ rubble!” This was good advice. Used soil from house plants, builder’s rubble & grit – the Nasturtium loved it all. Flowers appeared, and many of them. Bumblebees found these blooms, flying up to the balcony to visit the Nasturtiums. They came through the summer, buzzing from one trumpet to the next, brushing my hands with their fur as I tended the flowers.

 

I’ve kept Nasturtiums through London winters by covering their pots in bubblewrap when frost was predicted, & removing it when temperatures rose. By springtime plants were barely ticking over; sunshine & watering revived them. However, if kept outdoors for too long in freezing conditions, the plants were doomed. Nasturtiums are not hardy enough to survive our winters unless kept indoors, in a greenhouse or conservatory.

 

2018Our Nasturtiums have had a terrible summer. These ‘Alaska’ flowers, a gift from Eda by way of Chapel Market, bloomed before the summer desert heatwave. But there were no further flowers & leaves were tiny, the size of a halfpenny piece. An ‘Empress of India’, too, produced tiny leaves & no flowers for the duration of the heatwave.

A Bush Nasturtium & a Trailing Nasturtium made normal leaves but managed  no flowers. According to a few websites, including Dave’s Garden, Nasturtiums dislike extreme heat and humidity.  Today, 30th August, over a week since the desert heat gave way, we have had one Empress of India flower & another bud… No blooms from the others. It is as if the extreme heat seared away the plants’ memory of how to produce buds and flowers.

 

2019

This year’s nasturtiums are in a wall basket mounted on the house. 

2022

We have had several unsuccessful Nasturtium years. An attempt to grow them from seed during lockdown failed.

I saw on youtube a gardening programme in which the gardener, a woman in North Carolina, said Nasturtiums do not like extreme heat… In US summers when other, cooler states are enjoying their Nasturtiums, North Carolinians are having temperatures of over a hundred degrees fahrenheit & the Nasturtiums are not blooming. We in London have had unseasonable spells of extreme weather for several years now and I must sadly admit that this is not the weather for them… Not the climate of Chile or Peru, or the London of a decade ago…