Lungwort, or Pulmonaria officinalis, is a beautiful early spring bloomer, one of the first to bloom in our gardens. This plant is native to forests in Europe and has long been used medicinally to treat lung diseases and is still used as an herbal supplement for chronic bronchitis and asthma. In medieval times, it was believed that if a plant resembled a human organ, it would provide relief for ailments of the organ it resembled. The medieval people thought the spotted leaves resembled diseased lung tissue, hence the common name, ‘lungwort’. The genus name comes from the Latin word for lung, pulmo.
Lungwort is a shade lover. Being a native forest plant, it’s happiest in rich, humus, well drained, but moist soil. It will not tolerate hot direct sunlight or dry soil conditions, and will scorch or wilt. One summer, while we were rearranging things here at the farm, we accidentally left some pots out in the sun and in an astonishingly short amount of time the were lying flat on the ground. Fortunately, we discovered them in time and with a move to cool shade and a good soaking they revived.
This plant is a very attractive plant all summer, forming mounds of spotted leaves 12 to 18 inches high and around. When the flowers first begin to open, they are a lovely shade of pink and as they mature turn a beautiful purple color. The two colors occur together and make the plant particularly delightful. Lungwort spreads very slowly by root, gradually expanding its original clump. It is not invasive and can easily be divided if it gets too large.