Heliotrope (Heliotropium spp) is the common name for many plants of the genus Heliotropium. The name heliotrope comes from the Greek meaning “The sun” and “To turn” because of the plant’s perceived habit of turning toward the sun.
Other names: turnsole, cherry pie plant
Some Heliotrope Species
Garden heliotrope Heliotropium arborenscans – is a shrubby plant that grows to about 3 feet tall and has a strong fragrance ranging from cherry to vanilla. Purple flowers in roundish clusters. This plant is native to Peru. (Note: Valerian is also occasionally called the garden heliotrope.)
European turnsole or Common heliotrope Heliotropium europaeum – is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa but grows wild and is sometimes considered a weed all over North America and Australia as well.
It has spikes of many tiny white flowers with fuzzy sepals. The spikes look sort of caterpillar-like and curl up as they grow.
Most ancient European lore associated with Heliotrope probably refers to this species.
History and Folklore
According to Greek legend, the nymph Clytie was in love with the God Helios (or Apollo), but he did not return her affections (or left her for another woman). Clytie pined away, spending all of her days gazing at the sun, not eating, resting and talking to anyone. Helios finally turned her into a flower and she continues to this day following his movements through the sky.
Garden heliotrope is a tender perennial that can be grown indoors as a potted plant or as an annual wherever there is frost as it will not survive the cold. It likes full sun to partial shade.
Common heliotrope is an annual that grows in a wide range of conditions. It readily reseeds and can easily take over a garden space. It is considered a noxious weed in some areas and it is toxic to livestock so it can cause some problems.
However, it is not as aggressive as some invasive species, as it does not compete well with other plants for resources. ((See the USDA’s risk assessment for this species at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/weeds/downloads/wra/Heliotropium_europaeum.pdf))
Magical Attributes of Heliotrope
Heliotrope represents devotion, to lovers as well as to a God or a cause.
To dream of heliotrope means unrequited love. You can place heliotrope flowers under your pillow to encourage prophetic dreams related to finding lost things and people.
The essential oil can be used to anoint candles and other objects used in divination and in spells for wealth.
Heliotrope can be burned for banishing.
If you gather heliotrope in August for use in magic, take care. It is said that your intention will be amplified and reflected back to you. So if you use it for good, great goodwill return to you, but if you use it for evil, evil will be returned to you in abundance.
Healing Attributes of Heliotrope
Garden heliotrope is used for perfumery. The scent is said to help fight fatigue.
Heliotrope may be used in homeopathy to cleanse the blood and lymphatic systems and to fight viral infections.
An infusion of garden heliotrope leaves can be used for a scratchy throat from overuse of the voice.
Long-term use of heliotrope is not advised as it can cause liver damage. The seeds are toxic.
Other Uses for Heliotrope
Garden Heliotrope is an excellent addition to butterfly gardens.