An ANNUAL, or short-lived PERENNIAL, growing to 20cm. The small plant has a creeping and ramping habit with oval to heart-shaped leaves and distinct 5-petalled (2 upwards, 2 to the sides and 1 large to the bottom) purple, blue, yellow or white (or a combination of) flowers.
Noted for attracting wildlife, it prefers well-drained soil in a full sun position, but tolerates semi-shade well.
Flowers and leaves are edible and it has a long history as a medicinal plant.
Young leaves and flower buds can be eaten either raw or cooked while the flowers make an uplifting edible garnsish to salads, or decorations on cakes, or in drinks. Tea can be made from the leaves.
Once a common medicinal herb, reputed for the treatment of asthma, skin problems and epilepsy, modern herbalism uses it as a cleansing herb, especially useful for treating skin problems such eczema. It can also be used for coughs and bronchitis.
Leaves can be used as litmus to test acidity or alkalinity and a yellow, green or blue dye can be obtained from the flowers.