Geum rivale. Water Avens. Geum virginianum. White Avens.
Nat. Ord. — Rosaceae. Sex. Syst. — Icosandria Polygynia.
Description. — Geum Rivale, likewise known as Purple Avens, has a perennial, horizontal, somewhat woody, scaly, jointed, tapering root, of a reddish-brown color externally, white internally, six or eight inches in length, and furnished with numerous descending yellow fibers. The stems are one or more from the same root, erect, nearly simple, pubescent, of a purplish color, paniculate at top, and from one to two feet in hight. The radical leaves nearly lyrate, and uninterruptedly pinnate, with large terminal leaflets on long hairy petioles, rounded, lobed and crenate-dentate, and from four to six inches long. The cauline leaves are few, subsessile, from one to three inches long, and divided into three serrate, pointed segments ; stipules ovate, acute, cut, purplish. The flowers are few, subglobose, nodding, yellowish-purple, and stand on axillary and terminal peduncles. The calyx is inferior, erect, purplish-brown, with ten lanceolate pointed segments, with five alternately smaller than the others. The petals are five, as long as the erect calyx segments, broad- obcordate, clawed, purplish-yellow, veined. The seeds are oval, with plumose awns, minutely uncinate, and nearly naked at the summit. This species is common to Europe and the United States, and is found growing in woods, wet meadows, and along streams, especially in the Northern and Middle States, and flowering in June and July. The American species differs from the European in having smaller flowers, petals more rounded on the top, and the leaves more deeply incised. The fresh root is aromatic.
Geum Virginianum, also known as Throat-root, Chocolate-root, etc., has a perennial, small, brown, contorted, horizontal root, with an erect stem about two feet high, simple or branched, pubescent, and few flowered. The radical leaves are on long petioles, without stipules, pinnate, lyrate, or simple and rounded, usually three-foliate ; the folioles oval or oval-lanceolate, acute at the base, and acuminate, deeply and unequally serrate. The cauline leaves are on shorter petioles, furnished with large stipules, three to five-lobed ; the upper leaves simple, acute, sessile ; all are unequally and incisely dentate, nearly smooth, or softly pubescent. The flowers are quite small, white, on erect peduncles. The calyx subcampanulate, deeply five-cleft, with five exterior alternate bracteoles. The petals are five, yellowish-white, not exceeding the length of the calyx, and inserted into it. Stamens numerous, short, unequal ; filaments filiform ; anthers roundish and yellow. Styles numerous, long, hairy, geniculate above the middle, lower portion glabrous, persistent, uncinate after the upper portion falls off. Fruit a cluster of dry achenia, which are oval, brown, smooth, having a tail or awn formed of the persistent styles, twisted and uncinate at apex. This plant is found in hedges and thickets, and in moist places, in most parts of the United States, flowering from June to August.
History. — These plants, with some other varieties, have long been used in domestic practice. The whole herb contains medicinal properties, but the officinal and most efficient portion is the root. The dried root of the G. Rivale is scaly, jointed, tapering, hard, brittle, easily pulverized, of a reddish or purplish color, and inodorous ; that of the G. Virginianum is brown, crooked, tuberculated, and brittle ; both are white internally, and of a bitterish, astringent taste. Boiling water or alcohol extracts their virtues, the solution becoming reddish. They have not been analyzed, but probably contain tannic acid, bitter-extractive, gum, resin, etc. A weak decoction of the root of G. Rivale is sometimes used by invalids as a substitute for tea and coffee.
Properties and Uses. — Tonic and astringent. Used in numerous diseases, as passive and chronic hemorrhages, chronic diarrhea and dysentery, leucorrhea, dyspepsia, phthisis, congestions of the abdominal viscera, intermittents, aphthous ulcerations, etc. Dose of the powder, from twenty to thirty grains; of the decoction, from one to two fluidounces, three or four times a day.
The Geum Urbanum, or European Avens, possesses similar properties.