No. 9. Arbutus Uva-ursi.
French Name—Bousserole Raisin d'Ours.
German Name—Erdbeartege Sandbeere.
Vulgar Names—Mountain Box, Redberry, Upland Cranberry.
Authorities—Linnaeus, Woodville, Michaux, Pursh, J. S. Mitchell, Murray, Girardi, Dispensaries, Schoepf, Ferriar, Dehaen, B. Barton, Bigelow, fig. 6, and Sequel, &c.
Genus ARBUTUS—Calix five parted and free. Corolla ovate, five toothed. Stamina ten basilar, filaments hairy, anthers bifid, each part bipore. One pistil, one style, stigma simple. Berry free, five celled.
Species A. Uva-Ursi—Stem procumbent; leaves scattered, cuneate, obovate, entire, coriaceous: flowers in small clusters, peduncles reflexed, bracteolate: berries globular, smooth, five seeded.
Description—Roots perennial, creeping, slender. Stems procumbent, trailing, cespitose, radicate, the young shoots tending upwards, cylindric, cuticle pealing off. Leaves numerous, scattered, variable in shape, narrow or broad, always acute and alternate at the base, on short petiols, thick, coriaceous, evergreen, and smooth, shining above, pale beneath, margin entire, thick or rounded, and nearly obtuse.
Flowers nearly terminal in a small racemose cluster, from six to twelve together, of a pale, rosy, flesh color. Peduncles shorter than the flowers, colored, reflexed, with some minute acute bracts, two of which in the middle. Calix colored, with five rounded acute segments. Corolla ovate, urceolate, white with a rosy tinge, transparent at the base, contracted above, hairy inside, with five acute, short, and reflexed segments or teeth. Ten equal stamina inserted at the base of the corolla, with hairy, short, cuneate filaments, anthers equal in length, bifid, each part with two pores. Germ round, style straight, longer than the stamina, stigma obtuse. A black indented and persistent ring around the base of the germ, called nectary or gynophore. Berries globular, depressed, of a scarlet color, pulp insipid, mealy, five seeds almost coalescent together.
History—The G. Arbutus is very near to Vaccinium, (whortleberry,) differing chiefly by the free calix and berry, and to Andromeda, which has a capsul instead of a berry for fruit. It is divided into two sections or subgenera, (by some considered as genera.) 1. Unedo, having a rough, many seeded berry. 2. Mairania, a smooth five seeded berry. To this last belongs our actual species. Arbutus is an ancient name, Mairania is dedicated to the French philosopher Mairan, Uva-Ursi means Bear's-grape in Latin. It was known under this last name to the Greeks, and Galen mentions it as a medical plant.
Belonging to the natural order of ERICINES, (heath tribe,) section with berries: and to DECANDRIA monogynia of Linnaeus.
Locality—This plant is scattered throughout the northern hemisphere in Europe, Asia and America. In Europe, found from Lapland to the Pyrenees and Apenines. In Asia, from Armenia and the Volga to Kamtschatka. While in America it grows from Iceland and Greenland to Hudson Bay and Alaska, extending south to Canada, New-England, the highlands, and hills of north New-Jersey. It covers dry, stony and gravelly soils, barren spots, and even sandy woods.
It blossoms late, and the red berries are ripe in winter. These are eaten by bears, and many other animals.
The leaves are chiefly used, and may be easily dried. In Sweden and Russia they form an article of trade, being used to tan Russia leather. They begin to be collected in America.
The Indians smoke them like tobacco, and call them Sagack-homi in Canada. They dye black.
Qualities—Taste astringent, styptic and bitterish; inodorous. It abounds in Tannin, which is the active principle, and is easily soluble in water. The other substances are mucus, resin, lime, and bitter extractive.
Properties—Astringent, tonic and diuretic. It was extolled once in Europe as a remedy against gravel; but has since been found to be only a tolerable palliative in nephritis, gravel, calculous cases, disury, strangury, acting as an astringent, useful even when other remedies fail. Dr. Wistar, B. Barton, Mitchell, Bigelow, &c. recommend it in those cases. It has also been used for leucorhea, gonorhea, the catarrh of the bladder, menorhagia, debility, diabetes, ennuresis, disentery, ulcerations of the kidneys and bladder, and has often given relief or even cured; yet more efficient tonic remedies may be substituted.
It was once recommended in pulmonary consumption; but it only abates the hectic fever.
The powder, decoction or syrup, may be used. The doses are from five to twenty-five grains of the powder, or a wine glass of the decoction every hour. A syrup of the leaves and berries is made in Sweden, which is preferable.
Substitutes—Chimaphila or Pipsiseva—Erigeron Philadelphicum, &c.—Heuchera or Alumroot—Geranium maculatum—Statice Caroliniana—Asparagus—Strawberries—Tannin—and many astringents, acids, tonics and diuretics.
Remarks—The figure of Henry is fictitious.
Additions and corrections
9. ARBUTUS UVA-URSI—Other vulgar names, Wortleberry, Foxberry, Checkerberry, &c. This plant often dies the urine black; the berries are sometimes eaten in milk like those of the Vaccinium genus, they are aromatic (Nope. -Henriette) and diuretic.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.