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Conopodium majus (Gouan) Loret              Pignut


Conopodium : from Greek, ______ : konos : cone. & _______ podion : little
foot/foot of vase, referring to the shape of the stylopodium.

majus :: greater, large.

Pignut : pigs eat tubers

Conopodium denudatum (Koch). Bunium flexuosum (Stokes).

OTHER NAMES :: badman’s beard, deli’s bread, deli’s oatmeet, catnuts, gernut, jack jennets,
(Yks). Cuckoo potato, (Donegal). Gourlins, hornecks, (Scot). Cain & Abel, (Dur). Curluns,
(Kirk, Wigt). Fairy Potato. (Ire). Gowlins, knotty mealtruffle, swine bread, (Inv). Lucy aunt, (Fife).
Lousy arnuts, (Perth, Aberd). Farenut, varenut, grovenut, kel las, kelly, kill imure, keleren, (Corn)
Groundnut, St. Anthony’s nut, (Som, Herts). Jack durnals, jacky journals,
scabby hands, yowe yornut, yowie, yorlin, (Cumb). Hognut, (Dev, Som). Underground nut,
(Dev, Corn). Harenut, (Dor, Lancs, Yks, Ire)

BSBI Picture Link to Conopodium majus


TYPE : slender erect glabourous perennial. Ge.
ROOTS : tubers 1-3.5 cm. Dark brown, irregular, nutty taste.
STEMS : hollow + withering after flowering. Finely striate, flexuous, much attenuated
near its junction with the tuber.
HEIGHT : 8-50(90)cm
UMBELS : 3—7 cm diameter. Terminal, nodding in bud. Rays smooth 6—12, 1—6 cm, slender.
Peduncle > than rays. Hermaphrodite, few male. Later laterals all male.
LEAVES : mostly basal : 5—15cm, broadly deltate, 3—pinnate. Lobes 3—5mm, linear—lanceolate,
acute. Leaves soon withering, yellow when flowering, long—petiolate, petioles slender, flexuous.
Few cauline, 2—pinnate, linear lobes, terminal > than lateral. Petiole short sheathing. Primary
divisions stalked, 2—pinnate. Cotyledons tapered gradually at base, no petiole.
BRACTS : 0(1—2) Bracteoles 2—5. Membranous, linear, variable in length.
FLOWERS : white. Styles form stylopodium. Seperate male and female flowers in same ray. Fl. 5—7.
FRUIT : 4mm, oblong—ovoid, almost terete, beaked. Commisure constricted. Mericarps with
slender ridges and 2—3 reddish brown vittae in each groove. Carpophore present. Pedicels >
than the fruit. Styles short, longer than stylopodium, usually erect in fruit. Stigma truncate.

HABITAT : hedge bottoms, fields and woods often with creeping buttercup. Light dry acid soil.

DISTRIBUTION : Common except on chalk and fens. Less frequent in Ireland.
W. Europe from S. Norway, E to Italy. Naturalised in Faroes.
BSBI Distribution Map for Conopodium majus (UK)


Roots roasted or raw. Often cooked with rabbit in Dutch ovens. Children enjoy digging them up.

Pigs fond of them, can smell tubers when plant dormant. Pigs have been trained to find pignuts,
like truffles. Once cultivated, but not suitable for arable land.

Shakespear : ‘The Tempest’ : Monster Caliban “And with my long nails I’ll dig up pignuts.”

John Peely, 1694 : “Nuts peeled, boiled in fresh broth, pepper, nourishing stimulates the venery."

Victorian botanist : “Better fitted to the digestion of the resectable quadrupeds, whose
name they share than for Christian bipeds of tender years."


Food of Leprechauns in Ireland. Scotland: eat too many, you will catch head lice.

EXTERNAL LINKS FOR Conopodium majus

These links to trusted websites and institutions may provide in depth or additional information regards cultivation, chemistry, edibility, images etc. for the species. Links last updated Aug 2012.

Wikipedia (EU)    Plants For a Future (UK)
Bio Info (UK)     Bio Images (UK)
Paul Kirtley Bushcraft (UK)
Scottish Garden (SCOT)

'Online Guide To Umbelliferae Of The British Isles' Compiled By J.M.Burton 2002