Chapter 35. Medicinal Shrubs.
Hydrangea. Hydrangea arborescens L.
OTHER COMMON NAMES—Wild hydrangea, seven-barks.
HABITAT AND RANGE—Hydrangea frequents rocky river banks and ravines from the southern part of New York to Florida, and westward to Iowa and Missouri, being especially abundant in the valley of the Delaware and southward.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANT—Hydrangea is an indigenous shrub, 5 to 6 feet or more in height, with weak twigs, slender leaf sterns and thin leaves. It belongs to the hydrangea family (Hydrangeaceae). The leaves are oval or sometimes heart shaped, 3 to 6 inches long, sharply toothed, green on both sides, the upper smooth and the lower sometimes hairy. The shrub is in flower from Julie to July, producing loose, branching terminal heads of small, greenish white flowers, followed by membranous, usually 2-celled capsules, which contain numerous seeds. Sometimes hydrangea will flower a second time early in fall.
A peculiar characteristic of this shrub and one that has given rise to the common name "seven-barks", is the peeling off of the stem bark, which comes off in several successive layers of thin, different colored bark.
DESCRIPTION OF ROOT—The root is roughly branched and when first taken from the ground is very juicy, but after drying it becomes hard. The smooth white and tough wood is covered with a thin, pale-yellow or light-brown bark, which readily scales off. The wood is tasteless, but the bark has a pleasant aromatic taste, becoming somewhat pungent.
COLLECTION, PRICES AND USES—Hydrangea root is collected in autumn and as it becomes very tough after drying and difficult to bruise it is best to cut the root in short transverse pieces while it is fresh and still juicy and dry it in this way. The price ranges from 2 to 7 cents a pound.
Hydrangea has diuretic properties and is said to have been much used by the Cherokees and early settlers in calculous complaints.