Anagallis arvensis. Red Chickweed.

Botanical name: 

Nat. Ord. — Primulaceae. Sex. Syst. — Pentandria Monogynia.

The Leaves.

Description. — Anagallis Arvensis is a beautiful annual trailing plant, in fields, roadsides, etc., introduced into this country from Europe. Its stem grows from six to twenty inches long, with elongated branches, or simple, often dotted with purple, square, and more or less procumbent. The leaves are sessile, ovate, many-ribbed, opposite or ternate, dotted with purple at the back ; peduncles longer than the leaves ; sepals linear-lanceolate, about equaling the petals; petals obovate, obtuse, longer than the stamens, crenate-glandular. Flowers opposite, small but beautiful, with scarlet petals, opening at 8 o'clock, a. m., and closing at 2, p. m.; in damp weather not open at all. Stamens purple, hairy, dilated, and smooth at the base. Anthers yellow, heart-shaped. Style purple, permanent. Stigma capitate. Capsule pale and transparent, the size of a pea, separating all round, the valves marked with some indications of longitudinal separations which seldom take effect. Seeds roughish, abrupt externally, each with a central dot.

History. — This plant has several names, as Red Pimpernel, Poor Man's Weather Glass, Scarlet Pimpernel, etc. It blossoms in June and July. The leaves are the parts used, they are inodorous, but have a bitter, somewhat acrid taste. Water extracts their virtues. The plant appears to possess energetic properties, for Orfila destroyed a dog by making him swallow three drachms of the extract ; it inflamed the mucous membrane of the stomach. Grenier obtained a similar result.

Properties and Uses. — The precise properties of this plant are not fully known. It was formerly esteemed as a counter poison, and has been used as a preventive of hydrophobia. Its internal use has been recommended in visceral obstructions, dropsy, mania, epilepsy, delirium, and other nervous diseases; also in febrile delirium. But too little is known of its action to warrant its indiscriminate employment in these diseases. It may, however, be used in form of poultice, as a local application to old and ill-conditioned ulcers.

The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.