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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

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.

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.”

Lewisia rediviva Pursh

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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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.

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.

Hopewell Mounds, Hopewell, Ohio

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.

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.

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.

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”.

Hopewell Mounds, Hopewell, Ohio

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Invasive Species of the Week

PDF by Invasive Species Specialist Group