Water-Eryngo. Eryngium yuccifolium Michx.
OTHER COMMON NAMES —Eryngium, eryngo, button snakeroot, corn-snakeroot, rattlesnake-master, rattlesnakeweed, rattle snake-flag.
HABITAT AND RANGE—Altho sometimes occurring on dry land, Water-Eryngo usually inhabits swamps and low, wet ground, from the pine barrens of New Jersey westward to Minnesota and south to Texas and Florida.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANT—The leaves of this plant are grasslike in form, rigid, 1 to 2 feet long and about one-half inch or a trifle more in width; they are linear, with parallel veins, pointed, generally clasping at the base, and the margins briskly soft, slender spines. The stout, furrowed stem reaches a height of from 2 to 6 feet and is generally unbranched except near the top. The insignificant whitish flowers are borne in dense, ovate-globular, stout-stemmed heads, appearing from June to September, and the seed heads that follow are ovate and scaly. Water-Eryngo belongs to the parsley family (Apiaceae) and is native in this country.
DESCRIPTION OF ROOTSTOCK—The stout rootstock is very knotty, with numerous short branches, and produces many thick, rather straight roots, both rootstock and roots of a dark brown color, the latter wrinkled lengthwise. The inside of the rootstock is yellowish white. Water-Eryngo has a somewhat peculiar, slightly aromatic odor, and a sweetish mucilaginous taste at first, followed by some bitterness and pungency.
COLLECTION, PRICES AND USES—The root of this plant is collected in autumn and brings from 5 to 10 cents a pound.
Water-Eryngo is an old remedy and one of its early uses, as the several common names indicate, was for the treatment of snake bites. It was official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1860, and is employed now as a diuretic and expectorant and for promoting perspiration. In large doses it acts as an emetic and the root, when chewed, excites a flow of saliva. It is said to resemble Seneca snakeroot in action.