Pinkroot. Spigelia marilandica L.
OTHER COMMON NAMES—Carolina pinkroot, pinkroot, Carolina pink, Maryland pink, Indian pink, starbloom, wormgrass, wormweed, American wormroot.
HABITAT AND RANGE—This pretty little plant is found in rich woods from New Jersey to Florida, west to Texas and Wisconsin, but occurring principally in the Southern States. It is fast disappearing, however from its native haunts.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANT—Pinkroot belongs to the same family as the yellow jasmine, namely, the Logania family (Loganiaceae), noted for its poisonous species. It is a native perennial herb, with simple, erect stem 6 inches to 11 feet high, nearly smooth. The leaves are stemless, generally ovate, pointed at the apex and rounded or narrowed at the base; they are from 2 to 4 inches long, one-half to 2 inches wide, smooth on the upper surface, and only slightly hairy on the veins an the lower surface. The rather showy flowers are produced from May to July in a terminal one-sided spike; they are from 1 to 2 inches in length, somewhat tube shaped, narrowed below, slightly inflated toward the center, and again narrowed or contracted toward the top, terminating in five lance shaped lobes; the flowers are very showy, with their brilliant coloring-bright scarlet on the outside, and the inside of the tube, and the lobes a bright yellow. The seed capsule is double, consisting of two globular portions more or less united, and containing numerous seeds.
DESCRIPTION OF ROOTSTOCK—The rootstock is rather small, from 1 to 2 inches in length and about one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness. It is somewhat crooked or bent, dark brown, with a roughened appearance of the upper surface caused by cup shaped scars, the remains of former annual stems. The lower surface and the sides have numerous long, finely branched, lighter colored roots, which are rather brittle. Pinkroot has a pleasant, aromatic odor, and the taste is described as sweetish, bitter and pungent.
COLLECTION, PRICES AND USES—Pinkroot is collected after the flowering period. It is said to be scarce, and was reported as becoming scarce as long ago as 1830. The price paid to collectors ranges from 25 to 40 cents a pound.
The roots of other plants, notably those of the East Tennessee pinkroot (Ruellia ciliosa Pursh), are often found mixed with the true Pinkroot, and the Ruellia ciliosa is even substituted for it. This adulteration or substitution probably accounts for the inertness which has sometimes been attributed to the true Pinkroot and which has caused it to fall into more or less disuse. It has long been known that the true Pinkroot was adulterated, but this adulteration was supposed to be caused by the admixture of Carolina phlox (Phlox carolina L., now known as Phlox ovata L.), but this is said now to be no part of the substitution.
The rootstock of Ruellia ciliosa is larger and not as dark as that of the Maryland pinkroot and has fewer and coarser roots, from which the bark readily separates, leaving the whitish wood exposed.
Pinkroot was long known by the Indians, and its properties were made known to physicians by them. It is official in the United States Pharmacopoeia and is used principally as an anthelmintic.