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Archive for the 'Helianthus' Category

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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Wild sunflowers along roadside in New Mexico

Sunflowers a.k.a. “Common Sunflower”, “Mirasol”, “Kansas Sunflower”

Helianthus annuus

Localitie: Located throughout the western and southern United States, Southern Canada, and Northern Mexico. They are native to meadows, roadsides, foothills, prairies, and dry plains preferring well drained soils.

Description: The Common sunflower is a large roadside plant that grows off a coarse, hairy, leafy large stalk with stiff branching upright stems ranging in height from 3-9 feet tall, producing 3-6″ orange-yellow rayed flower heads containing numerous seeds in their brown-purple center disks flowering in summer annually. Common along fences, fields, ditches, roads, trackways, and waste areas especially in the Americas west of the Mississippi. Over the last 3,000 years, Native American and European cultivation of the plant has altered the size and seeds a thousand fold. These have become their own domesticated variety.

Cultivation: Best grown in moist, average well-drained soils under full sun exposure. They can also do well in poor soils, that are on the dry side, as long as full sunlight is granted. Best to plant after the last frost date for the area. The Sunflower was first domesticated by the Amerindians from the regions of southern Canada, western/southern America, and northern Mexico for food. It is believed that the Sunflower was first cultivated by the Native Americans, then spread from Mexico to Spain, onward to Europe, to the Russians, and finally to the European colonists in the New World.

Culinary: Domesticated by Native Americans for thousands of years, the sunflower was used in a variety of cooking methods. The seeds were roasted, cooked, dried, ground, or eaten raw, or pressed to create sunflower oil. The seeds can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitution. Flower buds are boiled and eaten or added to dishes.

Common Uses: Sunflowers are used as ornamentals and for herbal gardens with companion planting. Black and purple dyes are made from the plant to dye baskets. The ray flowers are used to make a yellow dye. The dyes would be used to dye fabric, basketry, or body paint. Infusions from the seeds have been used as a flea repellent. Stalks are used as fodder for livestock, poultry/livestock food, fuel, and ensilage. Russians use the hulls to manufacture furfural and ethyl alcohol, growing yeast, and lining plywood, or for commercial fiber. Others use it for fiber in plants and paper manufacture.

Cultural and Mythological: State flower of Kansas. The Sunflower is the common name but the Latin Genus species “Helianthus” comes from the Greek word “helios anthos” which translates to “Sun flower”. The species “annuus” means “annual”. The Hopi Indians believe that when sunflowers are numerous, it is a sign that there will be an abundant harvest. The Teton Dakota say that when the sunflowers are tall and in full bloom, the buffalo are ready for hunt as they are fat with good meat. The Iroquois tribe of North America incorporate sunflowers as part of their creation myth. The Spanish explorer Francisco Hernandez claimed that sunflower held aphrodisiac powers. The Rees, Mandan, and Gros Ventres made an oil from the seeds to lubricate and paint the face and body for ceremony, and also ate the seeds as a stimulant for war or hunting parties to alleviate fatigue. The Navajo used the plant for sun sand painting ceremonies and as a disinfectant preventing pre-natal infections caused by solar phenomena such as eclipses. they also pulverized seeds and roots together to make a salve to apply in order to prevent a horse from falling on a person, and as a moxa of the pith to remove warts. The flowers are worn in the hair of various tribal women (such as the Hopi in Arizona) for ceremonies.

Medicinal: Europeans used the plant as a remedy for pulmonary issues, the seeds for coughs and colds, as a substitute for quinine treating malaria, as well as a expectorant and diuretic. In Mexico, it is believed that sunflowers when eaten was good to soothe chest pains. The Pima would make a poultice from the warm ashes of burnt sunflowers and apply to the stomach to get rid of worms and a decoction from the leaves to stop high fevers. The Dakota would boil the flower heads, separate the involucrul bracts, and create a remedy for pulmonary issues. The Cochiti would make a juice from crushing the sunflower stems and apply them to cuts and wounds to speed healing. Cherokee made an infusion of the leaves to treat kidneys and the Dakota for chest pains and pulmonary troubles. Pawnee women ate a concoction made from dry seeds to protect suckling children from infections. Hopi used the plant for skin issues and as a spider medicine. Navajo used the seeds as a appetite stimulant. The Paiute tribe used sunflower root to alleviate rheumatism. Zuni would make a poultice from the root to treat snakebites.

Wild sunflowers along roadside in New Mexico

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Invasive Species of the Week

PDF by Invasive Species Specialist Group