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Bitter Root: Lewisia rediviva Pursh
Lewisia rediviva Pursh [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Core Eudicots: Caryophyllales: Portulacaceae: Lewisia: L. rediviva ]

Common Names: Bitteroot, Bitter Root, racine amere, spetlum, spetlem, naamtcu, Ktanxa, naqamcu, mo’otaa-heseeo’otse, black medicine

Localities:
Commonly found in open shrub or grasslands, low lying forests in lower elevations upwards to sub-alpine terrain atop gravelly to heavy dry soils. Found throughout southern British Columbia, eastern Oregon and Washington near the Cascades south towards southern California, east to Wyoming, Montana, northern Colorado and Arizona.

Description:
Bitter root is a small low growing perennial herb that is common in North America, especially in grasslands within low or moderate elevations. Bitter root when mature, exhibits a white to pinkish flower late May / early June. It possesses a fleshy taproot with simple or branched base leaves and a leafless flow stem ranging from 1-3 centimeters in height. Flowers form at the tip of the 5-6 linear bract whorl ranging from 5-10 mm in size brandishing a single flower on each stem with 5-9 oval to oblong shaped petals approximately 18-35 mm length. Once mature, the plant produces egg-shaped capsules with 6-20 rounded seeds.

The explorer Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, wrote in his journal describing the plant as “cilindric and as white as snow throughout, except some small parts of the hard black rind which they had not seperated in the preperation… [the roots] became perfectly soft by boiling, but had a very bitter taste, which was naucious to my pallate, and [I] transfered them to the Indians who had eat them heartily.”

Species:
Lewisia rediviva Pursh

Cultivation:
Wildcrafted. Harvested throughout history by Native American tribes, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Common Uses:
Bitter Root was a well known foodstuff utilized by various Native American tribes such as the Flathead Indians, Shoshone, Cheyenne, and others.

Culinary Uses:
Various tribes consumed the roots, often used to accompany grouse (Ktunaxa). The Ktunaxa ate bitter root with sugar while others ate it with salt. The root was often boiled in preparation. Native American women would dig up the plant, preferably before it flowered, cleaned the roots, boiled them, and mixed it with meat and/or berries. Hunting expeditions would take patties made from the pulverized root packed with deer fat and moss. Sometimes a sack of bitterroot would bring enough high trade value it was traded for a horse.

Medicinal Uses:
According to the Organic Facts website, Bitter root possesses the ability to relieve pain, eliminate respiratory irritation, calm the nerves, purify the skin, detoxify the body, regulate blood sugar, and settle upset stomachs. It is said that bitter root can be used to slow the pulse of the heart acting as a soothing agent effecting circulation, blood vessel dilation, and relief of excess stress upon the cardiovascular system and helpful preventative for atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. As a pain killer, utilized as an analgesic rub on injuries, headaches, and general muscle soreness. Eaten or added to tea could reduce inflammation of the lungs and respiratory system, loosening phegm and mucus, showing success with gout, arthritis, and gastro-intestinal disorders. Eaten it has been said to soothe sore throats. Rubbed on the skin or added to cleansing agents is well known to protect the skin from infection and decay, stimulating growth keeping young and beautiful skin tones. It is also a diuretic to detox the body from excess salts, fats, water, or toxins in the system – protecting health of the kidney. It has also been reputed for healing upset stomachs, often remedied by chewing the leaves or eating the roots to stop gastro-intestinal disorders.

Magical Uses:
The Lemhi Shoshone believed that the bitter root possessed a small red core in the upper taproot possessed many magical powers, especially one used to prevent bear attacks. It is also seen through history as a resurrection plant, because of its ability to revive each year back to life. It was because of this, that botanist Frederick Pursh gave it the latin species name Rediviva, a Latin word that translates to “brought back to life.”

Folklore and History:

Originally gathered by the Cheyenne, Shoshone, Flatheads, and other tribes in the Pacific Northwest. The use spread to the French trappers and became known as racine amere (bitter root). Meriwether Lewis ate bitter root in 1805 during the Lewis and Clark Expedition and labelled “Lewisia rediviva” by the botanist Frederick Pursh. On February 27, 1895 bitter root became the official state flower of Montana.

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Oregano-wikipedia

Article/Research by Thomas Baurley, Technogypsie Research www.technogypsie.com

Genus species: Origanum vulgare. Plantae, Angiosperms, Eudicots, Asterids, Lamiales, Lamiaceae, Origanum vulgare.

Common Names:Oregano, Carvacrol, Dostenkraut, Hulle d’Origan, Mountain Mint, Oil of Oregano, Organy, Origan, Origano. “Oregano” comes from the Anglo-Italian word “Origano” possibly originating from the Latin “Organum” relating to the Greek “origanon” meaning “an acrid herb”, or deriving from “mountain” and “delight in” or “joy of the mountains”. The exact origin is unknown.

Locality/Location/Environment: Native to the Mediterranean as well as Western/Southwestern Eurasia. Transplanted around the world and very common house plant in the United States

Where to Obtain: The Tree Leaves Oracle The Tree Leaves’ Oracle. Essential oil: http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/shop/?p=6661. Dried Herb: http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/shop/?p=6825.

Description: “Oregano” is a perennial herb belonging to the common species Origanum species as part of the Lamiaceae mint family. It can grow upwards of 20-80 cm in height displaying opposite spade-shaped, olive-green leaves approximately 1-4 cm in length. While it is commonly known as a perennial, it can also be found as an annual in colder climates with human intervention as it doesn’t naturally survive winter conditions. When blossoming, Oregano displays a myriad array of 3-4 mm long purple flowers produced in erect spikes and can often be mis-identified as wild marjoram (or sweet marjoram – its sister Origanum majorana). Marjoram and Oregano share much in relation so it is common to mistake the two. Another sister species is Syrian Oregano (Origanum syriacum). Numerous sub-species and strains of Oregano have been created throughout human intervention primarily to create different flavors, scents, aromas, and tastes. Some sub-species have variations in its leaves and stems such as the Aureum with golden foliage, Greek Kaliteri hirtum with small, hardy, dark, compact, thick, silvery-haired leaves containing purple undersides. Lippia graveolens, also called “Mexican Oregano” does not belong to the Oregano family, nor the mint – it is more closely related to the Vervain family verbenaceae. Also it is used by some as an Oregano alternative like Marjoram.

Cultivation: It is most commonly planted in early spring, often as early as February, within recommended spacing of 30 centimeters in dry or loamy soil exposed to full sun. Oregano loves a hot dry climate but can survive in most conditions especially with human assistance. Oregano can grow in mildly acidic (ph. range 6.0) variably to strongly alkaline (ph. range 9.0) soils however will be more successful within a 6-8.0 PH range. Easy to begin from seed, it can also be propagated from cuttings off an established plant. When first planting, place in well-drained soil under relatively warm conditions. It is a great companion plant in vegetable gardens. When it reaches approximately 4 inches, it is suggested to pinch or lightly trim the plant to make it denser and branch again. Do not over-water, best to just water when the soil feels dry. Be wary of aphids and spider mites that are attracted to this plant. Watch for root and stem rots. When ready to harvest, especially for culinary use, do so before flowering to keep flavor. Drying – hang upside in bundles. Once dried keep in airtight container. If keeping fresh, freeze in the freezer during winter.

Culinary: A very popular culinary herb, Oregano can be found in most kitchens. Some describe its taste to be similar to that of thyme, with a strong zesty flavor. Its leaves possess more flavor when dried rather than fresh. It possesses a warm, aromatic, slightly bitter taste. When shopping for Oregano, you can tell the better quality ones from poorer variants by its ability to numb your tongue. Most cooks and culinary specialists will recommend a different strain of Oregano than the common Origanum vulgare which is known for its pungent and less remarkable taste. The Aureum sub-species has a golden foliage and mild taste. Greek Kaliteri is common in Greek cooking known for its flavor and pungency. A common culinary herb throughout Indo-Europe, it is also widely used in the Mediterranean, as well as the Philippines and Latin America. Oregano is most common in Italian-American cooking especially with pastas and pizza. It became popular during World War II when it gained its nickname “the pizza herb” as soldiers returning brought back the herb and added to their pizzas. It is also a very common herb to be used to spice up meat, fish, and grilled, roasted, or fried vegetables. In Turkey it’s commonly used to flavor meats, especially lamb and offered as a condiment in kebab restaurants. The Greeks use it commonly in their salads and the lemon-olive oil sauces when barbecuing fish or meat. The Philippines use its aroma to get rid of odors from boiling water buffalo and adding flavor.

Common Uses: Cooking and a Culinary Spice. In gardening it is commonly planted as a companion plant, ornamental, and as ground cover. When flowering often used in decorations and within artistic wreaths. Oregano oil is used topically as an insect repellent. The tops of the plants are used to produce a reddish-brown dye. The leaves can be used as a wood polish when rubbed over wood.

Medicinal: According to folklore Oregano has numerous medicinal qualities. Through the ages it has been listed as a powerful antiseptic. It is a folk cure for stomach and respiratory issues. In Austria it is used as a tea or ointment to treat gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract disorders as well as to treat the nervous system. The Greeks use the sister Origanum dictamnus (Cretan Oregano) for sore throats. In Herbalism and folk healing, Oregano is used to treat coughs, asthma, croup, and bronchitis. It is also known to relieve heartburn and bloating, menstrual cramps, rheumatoid arthritis, urinary tract disorders, UTIs, headaches, and heart conditions. Its Oil is taken internally to treat colds, flues, arthritis, sinus pain, allergies, intestinal parasites, swine flu, earaches, and fatigue. It is also applied to the skin for acne, athlete’s foot, oily skin, dandruff, canker sores, warts, rosacea, ring worm, spider bites, insect bites, gum disease, toothaches, muscle pain, varicose veins, and psoriasis. Some claim its ability to ease seasickness. It is believed to be a natural antihistamine – and drank as a tea to relieve hives or other allergies, often mixed with tarragon, basil, chamomile, and fennel. Added to the bath, some say it will relax sore muscles and help one unwind after a long day. Made into a tea and used as a mouthwash has claims to ease sore gums and toothaches. Add the oil to massage oils to aid in muscle aches.

The U.S.A. Federal Trade Commission in 2005 sued firms claiming its ability to treat colds and flu saying the “representations were false or were not substantiated at the time the representations were made and that they were therefore a deceptive practice and false advertisements.” The result of the suit required in America that one could not advertise Oregano for its health benefits without reliable scientific evidence accompanying it. A ridiculous outcome since it has been known for its medicinal attributes for hundreds of years. Oregano possesses polyphenols and flavones. The essential oil is composed primarily of monoterpenoids and monoterpenes. Oregano is composed of numerous compounds, the most common being carvacrol and thymol as the major composition, with lesser compounds including p-cymene, y-terpnene, caryophyllene, spathulenol, germacrene-D, etc. Oregano is known to interact with Lithium. Preliminary science suggests the chemicals within Oregano might help reduce cough and spasms. Science also suggests it could help digestion by increasing bite flow. There is also some preliminary science suggesting possibilities of fighting against bacteria, viruses, fungi, intestinal worms, and parasites. Clinical research also suggests its treatment for high cholesterol when taken after each meal for three months could reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Other science have determined Oregano oil might kill the intestinal parasites Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba hartmanni, and Endolimax nana. Some suggest 200 mg of oil of oregano three times daily for 6 weeks for intestinal parasites.
Potential side effects: While Oregano is determined to be likely safe when ingested within the common amounts found in foods containing it, it is determined possibly safe when taken by mouth or applied to the skin in medicinal amounts – it has been noted to cause stomach upset, especially in excessive amounts. Those allergic to plants in the Lamiaceae family also have noted allergic reactions in its use. Oregano is cited as possibly unsafe when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts during pregnancy and breast feeding. It has a reputation of possibly causing miscarriage. Those with bleeding disorders or those about to enter surgery are recommended not to take Oregano due to the possibility Oregano can increase bleeding. Those preparing for surgery should stop use at least 2 weeks before surgery. Since Oregano can possibly lower blood sugar levels, use of Oregano by people with Diabetes should consult a physician first. Oregano use might cause effects similar to diuretics. Since Oregano interacts with Lithium, it can also decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium causing side effects. If taking Lithium, consult your physician before using oregano.

Magical / Mythology / Folklore: Medicinal and folk-healing properties are abundant in folklore about Oregano, especially in relaxing nerves and settling upset stomachs. Some claim the Assyrians utilized Oregano in 3000 BCE. Folk remedies claim it being a poison antidote, headache cure, asthma ease, and relief for insect bites as well as stings from scorpions. It is believed that Aristotle noticed would eat the leaves of an oregano plant after eating a snake thinking this would be an antidote to poison. Through Shakespearean lore, it was thought to cure overdoses of opium and hemlock. Oregano is used in magic, ritual, and ceremony. In Ancient Greece, it was an element in weddings as the crowns the wedded pair would wear would often be oregano laurels. During the middle Ages, the herb was planted around graves so departed spirits could be at peace. Those seeking psychic dreams would wear Oregano leaves on their heads. It was commonly carried as a charm for good luck and health. In spell craft, it is an ingredient for promoting happiness, luck, health, protection, letting go of a loved one, deepening existing love, and tranquility. Outside the home, it was grown to protect the house from evil. Oregano tea would often be prescribed by healers to assist patients in letting a loved one go. Oregano is believed to be ruled by Venus and the element of air. It is one of Aphrodite’s herbs. Oregano represents “joy” (possibly from its namesake “joy of the mountain”) and is used during rites imbued with celebrating happy occasions such as love, romance, marriages, or the passing of loved ones to find happiness in their next life.

This article is continuously being updated and revised. Please check back often for more research, links, references, photos, and content.

To obtain the Essential oil, visit http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/shop/?p=6661

To obtain the dried herb, visit http://www.treeleavesoracle.org/shop/?p=6825

    References:
  • Bespoke Spices 2015: undated “The History, lore, and Uses of Oregano”. Website referenced 6/6/16 at http://www.bespokespices.com/history-of-oregano
  • Collins Dictionary 2014 “Oregano”
  • Francis, Meagan HGTV 2015: undated “Herbivore: Get a Dose of Good Luck by Growing Oregano”. Website referenced 6/6/15 at: http://www.hgtvgardens.com/herbivore-get-a-dose-of-good-luck-by-growing-oregano#sthash.NBESNnYy.dpuf
  • The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2015: undated “Oregano”. Website referenced 6/6/15 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregano
  • USDA undated “Origanum vulgare L. oregano”. Plant database http://plants.usda.gov
  • WebMD 2015: undated “Oregano”. Website referenced 6/6/15 at http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-644-OREGANO.aspx?activeIngredientId=644&activeIngredientName=OREGANO
  • Wikipedia 2015: undated “Oregano”. Website referenced 6/6/15 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregano.
  • Witchipedia 2015: undated “Oregano”. Website referenced 6/6/15 at http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:oregano

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071413-063
Hopewell Mounds, Hopewell, Ohio

Echinacea spp.
Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Asterales: Asteraceae: Asteroideae: Heliantheae: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, etc.

Common names:
echinacea, purple coneflower, coneflower, American coneflower, American Cone Flower, Black Sampson, Black Susans, Brauneria Angustifolia, Brauneria Pallida, Comb Flower, Coneflower, Echinacea Angustifolia, Echinacea Pallida, Echinacea Purpurea, Echinaceawurzel, Échinacée, Échinacée Angustifolia, Échinacée Pallida, Échinacée Pourpre, Échinacée Purpurea, Equinácea, Fleur à Hérisson, Hedgehog, Igelkopfwurzel, Indian Head, Kansas Snakeroot, Narrow-Leaved Purple Cone Flower, Pale Coneflower, Purple Cone Flower, Purpursonnenhutkraut, Purpursonnenhutwurzel, Racine d’echininacea, Red Sunflower, Rock-Up-Hat, Roter Sonnenhut, Rudbeckie Pourpre, Schmallblaettrige Kegelblumenwurzel, Schmallblaettriger Sonnenhut, Scurvy Root, Snakeroot, Sonnenhutwurzel.

Location/Environment:
Native to North America. Endemic to eastern and central North America especially in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. They are drought-tolerant perennial plants growing up to 4 feet in height growing from taproots except purpurea that grows from a short caudex with fibrous roots.

071413-065
Hopewell Mounds, Hopewell, Ohio

Description:
Named from the Greek word echino meaning “sea urchin” due to the way the large spiny central disk of the flower appears. There are nine known species of Echinacea most of which are native to North America. Most common species is Echinacea purpurea. It is the genus of a group of herbaceous flowering plants of the Asteraceae daisy family with nine species all called coneflower. They possess large showy heads of composite flowers blooming from early to late summer. The species E. tennesseeosis and E. levitate are endangered species.

Cultivation:
The roots, leaves, and stems are used fresh or dried for teas, capsules, to make an extract, juice, or poultice. In addition to medicinal cultivation they are used as ornamentals. The erect stems are unbranched, with both basal and cauline leaves arranged alternately, leaves are normally hairy with a rough texture having uniseriate trichomes but sometimes they lack hairs. Basal leaves nad lower stem leaves have petioles and as leaves progress up the stem the petioles decrease in length. Some species have linear to lanceolae shaped leaves while others have elliptic to ovate shaped leaves. Flowers are collected together into single rounded heads that aterminate long peduncles. Corollas are pinkish, greenish, reddish-purple or yellow and have tubes shorter than the throats. Pollen is normally yellow. 3-4 angled fruits are created tan or bicolored with a dark brown band distally.

Medicinal:
Traditionally used to enhance the immune system as a natural antibiotic, best used for colds, flus, and other infections. Some also use it for wounds and skin problems including boils and acne. Scientifically it has not been documented officially for dependable effects on immune system. Some have stated allergic reactions to the plant including rashes, increased asthma, and anaphylaxis. Sometimes gastronintestinal side effects have been noted. Used for fighting infections, common cold, and other upper respiratory infections. Often taken during the first sign of the cold or flu hoping to keep it from developing, while others take it after getting a cold hoping to make the symptoms less severe. It is reputed to reduce cold symptoms, including flu, urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections, genital herpes, bloodstream infections (septicemia), gum disease, tonsillitis, streptococcus infections, syphilis, typhoid, malaria, and diphtheria as well as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), rheumatism, migraines, acid indigestion, pain, dizziness, rattlesnake bites, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Others have reputedly used it applied to their skin to treat boils, abscesses, skin wounds, ulcers, burns, eczema, psoriasis, UV radiation skin damage, herpes simplex, bee stings, and hemorrhoids. It is believe to activate chemicals in the body to decrease inflammation that might reduce cold and flu symptoms. Laboratory research states it does stimulate the body’s immune system but has not been proven to be effective in people.

Magical/Mythology/Folklore:
Traditionally used by the Great Plains Indian tribes and followed in use by European settlers. It was reputedly used by the Kiowa for coughs and sore throats, for sore throats by the Cheyenne, for headaches by the Pawnee, and other tribes as a analgesic. Native Americans supposedly learned of the most potent form Echinacea angustifolia by observing elk seeking out plants and consuming them when sick or wounded and identified those as “elk root”.

071413-066
Hopewell Mounds, Hopewell, Ohio

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Wolfsbane
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Wolfsbane
Aconitum vulparia [ Plantae: Angiospermae; Eudicots; Ranunculales; Aconiteae; Family: Ranunculaceae: Genus: Aconitum: Aconitum vulparia ]

Common Names:
Wolfsbane, Badger’s Bane, aconite, monkshood, wolfsbane, leopard’s bane, women’s bane, Devil’s helmet or blue rocket.

Localities:
Alps, Europe.

Description:
This herbaceous perennial grows naturally in damp woods, in the Northern hemispheres, especially in the Alps where it is an endangered species. It likes moist retentive well drained soil atop mountain meadows with snow melt. It is a plant that produces dark green leaves that lack stipules, are palmate lobed with 5-7 segments each with 3 lobed coarse sharp teeth, spiral or alternate leaf arrangement, with lower leaves having long petioles, growing tall erect stemmed crowned by racemes of large sulphur-yellow flowers from June to August with numerous stamens. The higher the elevation, the more flowers produced, and longer they last. The flowers are well know for having one of 5 petaloid sepals called the galea in the form of a cylindrical helmet that gives itself the English name monkshood. These are 2-10 petals in forms of nectaries, with two upper large petals, located under the hood of the calyx and supported on long stalks, with a hollow spur at the apex containing nectar, and other petals being small or non-forming with 3-5 carpels partially fused at the base. The plant produces a dry unilocular follicle fruit that has many seeds formed from one carpel and dehiscing by the ventral suture to release the seeds when ready to reproduce.

Species:
There are over 250 species.

Cultivation:
Wolfsbane is easily propagated by divisions of the root or by seeds. The plant can be sown from seeds, although this method is challenging and is recommended to be germinated in a wet paper towel wrapped up in a unsealed plastic baggie for 4 weeks at regular room temperature (but no direct light). After germination, place in freezer for 6 weeks, then sow in sterile planting soil once temperatures get to 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors. Imitate its natural habitat of high elevations, cold, and icy terrain.

Common Uses:
Commonly used as an arrow poison throughout history for hunting and warfare.

Culinary Uses:
The roots are occasionally mistaken for those of horse radish. When touched to the lips will produce the feelings of numbness and tingling.

Medicinal Uses:
Most of the species of Aconitum contain large quantities of the deadly poison alkaloid pseudaconitine. Wolfsbane can cause severe itching and dermatitis if in contact with human skin, and the poison can be absorbed into the body quickly even with the slightest cut on the skin. Strongly recommended to always wear gloves when handling it. The tiniest amount can be fatal. It is traditionally used in Asian medicine to increase pitta (fire, bile) dosha and to enhance penetration in small doses. In Chinese medicine it is used to treat Yang deficiency or general debilitation. It is a known anodyne, diuretic, and diaphoretic. Internally, Wolfsbane is used to slow the pulse, as a sedative for pericarditis and/or heart palpitations, or diluted as a mild diaphoretic, and to reduce feverishness in treatments of colds, pneumonia, quinsy, laryngitis, croup, and asthma. Initial poisoning will cause gastrointestinal including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea followed by burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen. It can cause hypertension, sweating, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, headache, and confusion. It is a potent neurotoxin that blocks tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium channels.

Magical Uses:
A herb associated with Saturn and Mars used in classical witchcraft. Sacred to the Goddess Hecate. The herb is used to reverse shape shifting spells and protects homes from werewolves. Some claim that witches dipped flints into the juice of wolfsbane as poisoned weapons, these flints were called elf-bolts. Used as an incense to honor Hecate and to receive omens/oracles from her. It is an anti-shapeshifting drug, so can help see people’s real forms. Its used for much baneful magic.

Folklore and History:
It is believed that this plant got the name “Wolfsbane” because early Germans used it to poison wolves. In Greek Myth, Medea attempted to poison Theseus with a cup of wine poisoned with wolfsbane.

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Ruta Graveolens / RUE
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Rue: Ruta Graveolens
Ruta Graveolens [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Rosids: Sapindales: Rutaceae: Rutoideae: Ruteae: Ruta: Ruta Graveolens ]

Common Names:

Localities:
Commonly found throughout the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, Macaronesia, and southwest Asia.

Description:
Rue is a hardy evergreen shrubby plant that is highly scented disagreeble odor, ranging from 20-60 cm tall, with upwards of 8-40 species. The most popular “Rue” is “Common Rue”. Stems are woody in the lower part, Its leaves are alternate tripinnate or bipinnate with feathery appearance, green to blue green in color hosting yellow flowers with 4-5 petals that are approximately 1 cm in diameter usually from June to September, eventually forming 4-5 lobed capsulated fruit that hosts numerous sees.

Species:
Ruta angustifolia – Egyptian Rue; Ruta chalepensis – Fringed Rue; Ruta corsica – Corsican Rue; Ruta graveolens – Common Rue; Ruta montana – Mountain Rue

Cultivation:
Grows anywhere, but thrives best in partially sheltered and dry areas. It can be propogated by seeds sown outside and scattered in spring, raking and beds kept free of weeds so that the seedlings when 2 inches high can be transplanted into fresh beds. Best to allow 18 inch spacing. With cuttings done in the spring, insert in soil until well rooted in shady borders or by rooted slips taken in spring until readily grown. Poor, dry, rubbishy soil is very good.

Common Uses:
Often used to ward off fleas and other biting insects and a common herbal insect repellent.

Culinary Uses:
Rue is very bitter with a nauseous taste, but utilized in many Middle Eastern cuisines, especially as an additive to grappa in Italy. It was a common element to ancient Roman recipes. Often added to salads.

Medicinal Uses:
Used for much medicine in England, it is a main ingredient for poison antidotes. Piperno the physician in 1625 recommended Rue to combat epilepsy, vertigo, and malady – often to be worn around the neck of the sufferer. Pliny claimed it was good to improve eyesight and focus. Believed by Italian artists to make eyesight sharp and clear aiding in detailed drawings. Juice of Rue is often utilized to fend off ear aches. It was seen early to ward off contagion, attacks of fleas, and other insects. Culpepper recommends it for sciatica and pains in the joints, also for shaking fits of agues, etc. Volatile oil made from rue contains caprinic, plagonic, caprylic, and oenanthylic acids as well as rutin. Often distilled from the fresh herb used as a wine, decoctions and infusions for medicinal usage or tea as an emmenogogue. In large quantities it is an acro-narcotic poison. Used sometimes to address hysterical affections, coughs, croup, colic, and flatulence as it is a mild stomachic. On the skin its an active irritant and sometimes used as a rubefacient, helping ease the severe pains of sciatica. it can risk dermatitis on the skin and cause rashes, especially if under the hot sun when oils are rich on the outside, it can blister skin like a poison ivy rash. Taken as a tea often used to combat nervous nightmares and leaves rubbed to the temples are said to relieve headaches. However, taking the plant intself internally has been known to produce vomiting, convulsions, and stomach pains. The compresses of the leaves applied to chests can combat chronic bronchitis. Leaves chewed are believed to calm nervous headaches, giddiness, hysterical spasms, and palpitations.

Magical Uses:
The Ancient Greeks see it as a “anti-magical herb” because it served as remedies to nervous indigestion they suffered when eating before strangers which was blamed on witchcraft. Throughout the Middle Ages it was seen as a powerful defense against witches and a main ingredient in many spells. Crushed herb is known to ward off evil spirits and witches. Rue is also believed to summon second sight. Holy water was sprinkled with rue brushes at ceremonies preceding Sunday celebrations of high mass, giving it the name Herb of Repentance or Herb of Grace. Often boiled together with treacle, conserving the rue, and used to cure croup in poultry or to fend off diseases in cattle.

Folklore and History:
The name comes from “Ruta” (Greek ‘reuo’) meaning “to set free” as the herb is known to be very good at affecting various diseases. Used by many ancient cultures, it was written about by Hippocrates who commended it as a chief ingredient for combating poisons in antidotes. Said by Gerard that “If a man be anointed with the juice of rue, the poison of wolf’s bane, mushrooms, or toadstooles, the biting of serpents, stinging of scorpions, spiders, bees, hornets and wasps will not hurt him.”, it was commonly sprinkled in houses to kill all the feas and as an insecticide. It is one of the ingredients in the “Vinegar of the Four Thieves”. It is the floral symbol of repentance, sorrow, and of regret.


Rue
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Birthwort

The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Birthwort
Aristolochia clematitis [ Plantae: Aristolochiaceae: Aristolochia clematitis ]

Common Names:
Birthwort, Virginia Snakeroot, Snakeroot, Dutchman’s Pipe, Pipevine, etc.

Localities:
Found throughout the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus, it is found in many other regions.

Description:
A perennial flowering plant that grows upwards of three feet, possesses an unpleasant smell, and blossoms dirty yellow flowers. Its flowers resemble a birth canal or a pipe, hence lending to the name. The root is spindle-shaped, ranging from 5 cm to 3 dm in length, about 2 cm thick, fleshy, brittle, greyish on the outside, brownish-yellow inside, bitter tasting, and hosting a strong disagreeable odor.

Species:

There are over 350 species, including but not limited to: Aristolochia clematitis (Birthwort); Aristolochia serpentaria (Virginia Snakeroot, Virginia Snakeroot, Snakeweed); Aristolochia reticulata (Snakeroot) ; Aristolochia klugii (Amazonian Snakeroot/Birthwort) ; Aristolochia bracteata (Sudanese Snakeroot/Birthwort) ; Aristolochia rotunda (European Snakeroot/Birthwort); Aristolochia kaempferi and A. fangchi (Chinese Snakeroot/Birthwort) ; Aristolochia indica (Indian Birthwort); Aristolochia mexicana, A. watsonii, A. wrightii (Indian Root, Birthroot, Snakeroot, Dutchman’s Pipe, Spanish: Yerba del Indio, Raiz del India, Inmortal, Comino, Guaco, Yerba del Pasmo, Tlacopatli (Nahuatl) ; Aristolochia grandiflora (Duck Flower, Alcatraz, Spanish: Hierba del Indio, Contribo).

Cultivation:

Common Uses:

Culinary Uses:

Medicinal Uses:
Due to the “Doctrine of signatures” this plant was used a lot in childbirth – a preparation was prepared for women in labor to expel the placenta. However, the aristolochic acid often killed the patient. This plant is so dangerous that not many parts of the plant are ever used anymore. It is highly toxic and lead to the development of tumors if low doses are taken over an extended period of time. Traditionally its fresh juice was used to induce labor. Theophrastus (372-286 BCE) claimed its success with treating disorders of the uterus, reptile bites, and sores to the head. Native Americans used it to treat snake bites, treat stomach aches, toothaches, and fevers. The Aztec used it to treat abscesses, dysentery, and deafness. It is a anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, analgesic, abortifacient, diaphoretic, nervine, tonic, wound healer, and is known to induce menstruation. It stimulates white blood cell activity and is also carcinogenic and damaging to the kidneys. Decoctions were used to heal ulcers as well as asthma and bronchitis. In Sudan was used for scorpion stings. In India it is used as a contraceptive. Aristolochia serpentaria (Virginia Snakeroot) (as well as A. pfeiferi, A. rugosa and A. trilobata) were used alot for treating snakebites, hence the folk name “Snakeroot” even though the Aristolochic acid doesn’t appear to bind and deactivate the Phospholipase A2 of most snake venom. This species though is said to be instrumental in helping bilious, typhoid, typhus fever, small pox, pneumonia, amenorrhoea, and fevers as well as for the bites of mad dogs. The powdered root (1/2 to 1 drachm) has been said to be an aromatic stimulant in rheumatism and gout after childbirth.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:
Birthwort came from the term “Aristolochia” which means “excellent birth” as its fresh juice once was used to induce labor.

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Castor Oil Plant
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Castor Oil Plant
Ricinus communis [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Malpighiales: Euphorbiaceae: Acalyphoideae: Acalypheae: Ricininae: Ricinus communis ]

Common Names: Castor, Castor Oil, Bofareira, Castor Oil Plant, Castor Bean Plant, Mexico Seed, Oil Plant, Palma Christi, Pei-ma

Localities:
Originally native to Eastern Africa, southeastern Mediterranean Basin, and India, now cultivated throughout hot climates around the world especially Africa and Southern Asia.

Species:

Description:
The Castor Oil plant is an evergreen shrub or tree that grows upwards of 30-40 feet tall naturally, and found smaller in the cultivated varieties. The plant produces large broad deeply lobed purple-bronze to gray-green/dark maroon palm-shaped leaves off long stalks that blossom green petalless female flowers born on clusters above the male flowers that give birth in development to prickly bur-like capsules containing three red seeds.

Cultivation:
Seeds are gathered annually when ripe and soaked in the sun for maturity.

Common Uses:
Throughout Europe and America, it is used as a foliage plant for gardens. It was used by the Egyptians as a lamp oil. Because it has a low freezing point, it is used to lubricate airplane engines, in hydraulic brake fluids, biodegradable laundry detergents, paints, and varnishes. It is now used as a biodiesel. The seeds are used by kids for slingshot balls. The seeds are also used in jewelry for necklaces and bracelets (though highly not recommended due to toxicity).It is used for lubrication, burning, and leather dressing.

Culinary Uses:
Processed, the oil is used to create polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR) as an additive or substitute for cocoa butter in chocolate production.

Medicinal Uses:
The ancient Egyptians used the castor oil as an unguent and to purge their systems three times a month by drinking the oil mixed with beer. Because the oil is so poisonous, the Greeks and Romans used the oil only externally. By the 18th century it was used as a laxative. The castor oil bean contains one of the world’s most deadliest toxins – ricin. Seeds contain glycerides of ricinoleic acid, ricin, ricinine, and lectins. A single bean ingested can kill a child. Two beans can kill an adult. If poisoned, symptoms may be delayed upwards of 36 hours, but can start to appear within 2-4 hours causing a burning sensation in mouth and throat, abdominal pain, purging, and bloody diarrhea. Severe dehydration and a drop in blood pressure and decrease in urine appear within several days, and deeath within 3-5 days if not treated. It is pretty easy however to extract the oil from the bean bypassing the ricin by hulling and crushing the seeds below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, yielding a clear yellowish poison-free oil rich in ricinolein that irritates the intestines. This is where it is invaluable as a laxative or purgative. It prompts a bowel movement within 3-5 hours after ingestion. It is used medicinally to clear the digestive tract of poisoning. It is tolerated by the skin and thereby found in medicinal and cosmetic preparations. In India, the oil is massaged into breasts after childbirth to stimulate milk flow, or as a poultice to relieve swollen and tender joints. The Chinese use crushed seeds to treat facial palsy. The ancients used the oil to improve hair growth and texture, and to brighten the whites of eyes.

Magical Uses:
Castor oil was used in sacrifices to please the Gods.

Folklore and History: Evidence found in 4,000 year old Egyptian tombs contained small glossy mottled 1/2 inch or less long polished castor beans that had religious significance from the beginning of civilization. “Ricinus” is Latin for “tick” because it has markings and a bump at its end of the seed that resembles ticks. “Castor Oil” comes from its use as a replacement for “castoreum” a perfume made from the dried perineal glands of beavers. Also related to the common name of “Palm of Christ” derived by its reputation to heal wounds and cure ailments. Used in India since 2,000 BCE for lamp oil and as a laxative, purgative, and cathartic.


Castor Oil Plant
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Deadly Nightshade
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Deadly Nightshade
Atropa belladonna [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Solanales: Solanaceae: Atropa: Atropa belladonna ]

Common Names: Nightshade, Deadly Nightshade, Atropa, Belladonna, divale, dwale, banewort, devil’s cherries, naughty man’s cherries, black cherry, devil’s herb, great morel, and dwayberry.

Localities:
Native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. Naturalized in North America.

Species:

Description:
Belladonna is common weed that is a branching perennial herbaceous plant that hosts extremely poisonous foliage and berries. It is often found growing as a sub-shrub upwards of 1.5 meters tall and 18 centimeters long ovate leaves producing tyrian purple bell-shaped flowers with green tinges and faintly scented. The fruits are 1 cm diameter sweet tasting berries green ripening to shiny black. It belongs to the Solanaceae family with its family of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, jimsonweed, tobacco, wolfberry, and chili peppers. It has a thick, fleshy, white root that grows upwards of 6 inches long and is branching.

Cultivation:
Often found in shady, limestone-rich soils. Germination of the seeds is difficult, even though a weed that naturally takes over disturbed soils throughout the world. Germination can take several weeks under alternating temperatures.

Common Uses:
An early cosmetic and poison. Rarely used in gardens but if grown in a garden usually for its large upright habit and show berries. As a cosmetic, drops were created to dilate women’s pupils.

Culinary Uses:
A banana flavored liquid called Donnagel PG was once available in the United States until 1992.

Medicinal Uses:
The Deadly Nightshade has extremely toxic foliage and berries that contain tropane alkaloids including the toxins of scopolamine and hyoscyamine that can cause bizarre delirium and hallucinations. It also anticholinergic properties. The ingestion of 2-5 berries can kill a child and 10-20 berries can kill an adult. The root is the most lethal and ingestion of a single leaf can be fatal to an adult as well. Nightshade is used to produce anticholinergics and is the derivative for the drug atropine. It was used both as a medicine and a poison. It was also used as an anesthetic for surgery. Lotions are made to treat neuralgia, gout, rheumatism and sciatica. As a drug it affects the brain, bladder, and can allay cardiac palpitation as well as a powerful antispasmodic in intestinal colic and spasmodic asthma. It has been used through history to increase pupil size in ladies but believed with prolonged use to cause blindness. Symptoms from ingestion can include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions. The only antidote is physostigmine or pilocarpine. It is also toxic for domestic animals that ingestion can cause narcosis and paralysis with the exception of cattle and rabbits that don’t seem to be affected. The chemical scopolamine derived from Belladonna is used to create a hydrobromide salt to treat GI, motion sickness, and to potentiate the analgesic and anxiolytic effects of opioid analgesics. The chemical hyoscyamine is used as a sulphate or hydrobromide to treate GI and Parkinson’s Disease. It has also been used for adjunctive therapy in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (irritable colon, spastic colon, mucous colitis) and acute enterocolitis. The berries in history were used to treat headache, menstrual symptoms, peptic ulcer disease, histamine reaction, inflammation, and motion sickness. It is used as a recreational drug alongside jimsonweed to create vivid hallucinations and delirium but is very dangerous due to risk of unintentional fatal overdose. Atropine can cause memory disruption and lead to severe confusion. Was also used in “Twilight Sleep” remedies to deaden pain and consciousness during childbirth. It is a Narcotic, diuretic, sedative, antispasmodic, and mydriatic.

Magical Uses:
It is believed that witches mixed belladonna, opium poppy, and other plants to create a hallucinogenic flying ointment to help them fly to gatherings with other witches. Often applied with a broomstick dowel to the genitalia, gave lending to the legend that witches fly around on broomsticks. The plant is believed to belong to the devil who trims and tends it at his leisure only distracted from it during the Walpurgis event when he is preparing for the witche’s sabbat. Priests were believed to drink an infusion of it before worshipping and invoking the aid of Bellona, the Goddess of War.

Folklore and History: The Romans used it as a poison (as in Augustus and wife of Claudius using it to kill their contemporaries) and was commonly used to make poison tipped arrows. It was a poison used by Agrippina the Younger and Livia to kill the Emperor Augustus. Macbeth of Scotland used it to kill one of King Duncan’s lieutenants during a truce to poison the troops of the invading Harold Harefoot of England. It was also the primary ingredient for the poison used for Juliet (in Romeo and Juliet tragedy). The name “Atropa” comes from “Atropos” one of the three fates in Greek mythology, after the Greek Goddess “Atropos”, that would determine the course of a man’s life by the weaving of threads that symbolize their birth, events in their lives, and their death with her cutting these threads to mark the latter. The name “bella donna” comes from the Italian for “beautiful woman” probably originating from its use as a facial cosmetic and to increase pupil size.


The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Opium Poppy
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Opium Poppy
Papaver somniferum [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Ranunculales: Papaveraceae: Papaver: Papaver somniferum ]

Common Names: poppy tears, lachryma papaveris.

Localities:
Grown ornamenatlly throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Asia.

Species:
There are many varieties of Poppy that varie from species to species, most notable through shape of the petals, numbers of flowers, fruits, seeds, colors, and production of opium.

Description:
The Opium Poppy, is a world class illegal drug that is derived from Papaver somniferum.

Cultivation:
To cultivate the Opium Poppy in the UK does not require a license, but does require one if you plant to extract opium for medicinal purposes. It is illegal to extract opium or any of the alkaloids in Italy and in the United States its a Schedule 2 controlled substance even prohibiting opium poppy and poppy straw. It is not enforced for poppies that is grown or sold as ornamentals or for food even though opium tea with high morphine content can be abstracted from poppies found at flower shops.

Common Uses:
It is a real popular plant for ornamental purposes, especially as the “common garden poppy”. Used as gifts or ornamentals in flower shops and gardens. Poppy seed oil is used for the manufacture of paints, varnishes, and soaps.

Culinary Uses:
Poppy seeds are an important food item and is the source for poppyseed oil. The oil is used widely for cooking oil. The seeds are very common to be found on muffins, breads, pies, and bagels. If someone consumes four poppy seed bagels, they could test positive for narcotics. Poppy seed paste (made from oil and seeds) is used in a nut roll called Polish makowiec. Poppy seeds are commonly used in North and South Indian Cuisine and are called “gasagasa”, “khuskhus”, “gasagasalu”, and “posto dana”. They are also commonly used in curries.

Medicinal Uses:
Opium is the source of many opiates in drug culture and pharmaceutical medicine such as morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine. It is a astringent, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic, and sedative. Opium was used throughout history for treating asthma, stomach sickness, and bad eyesight. Opium is the dried latex that comes from the opium poppy. This substance contains upwards of 12% morphine, an alkaloid used to produce heroine. Opium, morphine, and heroine are used as pain relievers, tranquilizers, and sleep aids. Poppy was also used for toothaches and coughs.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:

The latin name means “sleep bringing poppy” which describes the sedative properties of the plant. Images of poppies are found on Sumerian artifacts over 4,000 years old. It was known to the Ancient Greeks who manufactured opium from it and found archaeologically at Kalapodi and Kastanas. In the 1830’s, Britain and China had wars over the sale of Opium called “The Opium Wars”. Late 1800’s to early 1900’s narcotic alkaloids morphine and codeine were available in over the counter drugs such as cough syrup and teething medications.


Opium Poppy
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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Wormwood

The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Wormwood
Artemisia absinthium [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Asterales: Asteraceae: Artemisia: Artemisia absinthium ]

Common Names:
Wormwood, absinthium, absinthe wormwood, common wormwood, Green Ginger or grand wormwood

Localities:
Temperate Eurasia and Northern Africa; naturalized in much of North America.

Description:
Wormwood is a herbaceous perennial plant with a hard woody rhizome, straight stems that grow upwards of .8-1.2 meters tall, are grooved, branched, and silvery green spirally arranged leaves in color on the top leaf with white below covered in silky silvery-white trichomes bearing minute oil-producing glands. The bipinnate to tripinnate basal leaves with long petioles can achieve up to 25 cm length, and its cauline leaves located on the stem are smaller with 5-10 cm length which are less divided and hosting short petioles and simple sessile uppermost leaves. Wormwood produced spherical bent-down headed tubular pale yellow flowers that cluster and appear leafy and branched panicles from early summer and autumn. The plant creates a small achene fruit that disperses seeds by gravity.

Species:
There are over 400 species of artemisia.

Cultivation:
Wormwood best grows on uncultivated arid ground in rocky slopes, along footpaths, and in fields. It is easiest cultivated in dry soil, but initially should be planted under bright exposure in fertile mid-weight soils rich in nitrogen. It is propogated by growth cuttings in March or October, or via seeds planted in starter beddings. It is often harvested in the spring when it is young for cooking and alcohol additives.

Common Uses:
Often used as an additive in insect sprays for plants. Good for companion planting because of this as its roots secrete inhibiting effects on the growth of other plants, especially weeds, and can repel insect larvae. It is used to repel fleas and moths in houses.

Culinary Uses:
It is the major ingredient in Absinthe alcohol as well as a flavoring for other spirits and wines, including bitters, vermouth, and pelinkovac. In the Middle Ages it was used to spice Mead. It is also a traditional color and flavor agent for green songpyeon (steamed dumpling) eaten during the Korean Thanksgiving festival. In Morrocco it is added to mint tea.

Medicinal Uses:
Wormwood contains thujone, tannic and resinous substances, malic acid, and succinic acid. Medicinally it is used as a stomachic, antispasmodic, cholagogue, tonic, antiseptic, carminative, febrifuge, and anthelmintic. It is known for combatting indigestion, gastric pain, or as an antiseptic. It has been an ingredient in teas to help pregnant women during labor pains. It is also used as a cardiac stimulant to improve blood circulation. Its pure oil is very poisonous. Used to attack intenstinal worms.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:
Wormwood comes from the Greek “Apsinthion” which may mean “unenjoyable” referring to its bitter nature. The name “Wormwood” comes from Middle English “Wormwode” and nicknamed as such for its beneficial combat for intestinal worms. The Latin “Artemisia” is named after the Greek wife and sister of the Persian King Mausolous. She was an infamous botanist and medical researcher for her time.


Wormwood

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