No. 42. Geranium maculatum.
English Name—SPOTTED CRANE'S BILL.
French Name—Geranium Macule.
German Name—Geflecter Storchschnabel.
Officinal Names—Geranium radix, Kino Americanus.
Vulgar Names—Crowfoot, Alum-root, Tormentil, Storkbill. In Canada and Louisiana, Racine a becquet.
Authorities—Lin. Mich. Pursh, Schoepf, Colden, Coeln, Thacher, B. Barton, Mease, Coxe, Eberle, A. Ives, Zollickoffer. Big. fig. 8, and seq. W. Barton fig. 13.
Genus GERANIUM—Calix five parted, equal, persistent. Corol five equal petals. Stamina 10, hypogyiious, filaments monadelphous or united at the base, five alternate shorter. Germ central with five glands at the base, a persistent style, five stigmas. Fruit five capsuls one seeded, attached by a beak to the persistent style.
Species G. MACULATUM—Perennial, hairy, erect dichotome; leaves few, opposite, three to five parted, palmate, segments oblong acute, jagged: peduncles elongated, biflore, petals obovate.
Description—Root perennial, horizontal, oblong, thick, rough, knobby, brownish spotted with greenish, whitish inside, very brittle when dry, with few short fibres. Stem erect, round, with few dichotome branches and leaves, covered as well as the petiols with retrorse hairs, and from one to three feet high. Several radical leaves on long petiols, the stem leaves opposite, at the distant forks, on shorter petiols; floral leaves nearly sessile: all are palmate, five parted, seldom three parted, segments oblong or cuneate, pubescent entire at the base, unequally jagged above, sometimes spotted: stipules linear or lanceolate, membranaceous ciliate.
Flowers geminate on biflore peduncles, arising from the forks, erect, round, swelled at the base, with linear bracts, similar to the stipules. Calix formed by five deep segments, oval lanceolate, cuspidate, fivenerved, hairy outside, margin membranaceous or ciliated. Five equal petals, obovate, entire, red with purple veins, twice as long as the calix. Stamina 10, filaments erect, shorter than the petals, connected at the base, filiform above, five alterne shorter, anthers oblong violet—Germ ovate, with five glands at the base, style erect, grooved, persistent, five oblong obtuse stigmas. Fruit a capsul divided into five coccas or one seeded capsuls, attached inside to the style, and curling up at maturity.
Locality—All over the United States from Maine to Louisiana, Missouri and Florida; very common in woods, copices, hedges, glades, &c. no where more abundant than in the western glades of Kentucky, &c.
History—The genus GERANIUM of Linnaeus forms a most beautiful group of plants, of which nearly 200 kinds are known, and many adorn our gardens. They are now the type of a natural family GRUINALES or GERANIDES, divided into many genera: Erodium with five stamina, Pelargonium with seven, besides Gruinalium, Monsonia, Oxalis, &c. The name is now restricted to the species with ten stamina; it derives from a Greek name meaning Crane. The G. maculatum belongs to the true decandrous Geraniums: the specific name applies to the root and leaves which are often spotted or mottled; but a variety is spotless. The varieties are many, such as 1. Humile, 2. Diphyllum, 3. Viride, 4. Albiflorum, 5. Macrophyllum, &c.
It is a beautiful plant, deserving cultivation, the flowers are large, but scentless, red, purple or white, with darker veins. It blossoms in the spring, from May to July. It has an extensive native range, and I have seen it growing by millions in the glades of West Kentucky, where it could be collected cheaply for use and exportation. The best time for collection is the fall.
Geranium belongs to Monadelphia decandria of Linnaeus, the Pelargonium or African Geraniums of the gardens, to M. heptandria.
Qualities—Root nearly scentless, taste astringent, but not unpleasant; it contains much tannin, more than kino, extractive, lignine and kinic acid? or a peculiar acid differing from gallic acid in not reddening vegetable blues, and not passing over in distillation. The active principles are soluble in water and alcohol: the alkalies neutralize them.
Properties—Powerful astringent, vulnerary, subtonic and antiseptic. The root is the officinal part, and is a pure, pleasant and valuable astringent, equal to kino and catechu, and deserving not only the name of American Kino; but to be introduced in Materia Medica as a superior equivalent. It is a better tonic than kino, and therefore preferable to it in the treatment of morbid fluxes connected with relaxation and debility. Its internal use is indicated in the secondary stages of Dysentery and Cholera Infantum: it is extensively used in the country for all bowel complaints; but sometimes improperly or too early. A gargle of the decoction is useful in cynanche tonsilaris and in ulcerations or aphthous sores of the mouth and throat. The infusion is a valuable lotion in unhealthy ulcers and passive hemorrhagy, also one of the best injections in gleet and leucorhea. It was once deemed a styptic in bleeding hemorrhagy, but has failed in many instances. United to our native Gentians or to Frasera, it forms one of the most efficient cures for intermittents. A decoction in milk is very good in looseness of bowels and diarrhea. Our Indians value this plant highly, and use it for wounds, gonorrhoea, ulcers on the legs, diabetes, bloody urine, involuntary discharges of urine, immoderate menstruations, &c. The general effects on the system are to give tone to the bowels and stomach, stop all immoderate discharges, and prevent internal mortification. It has also been recommended in scurvy, nephritis and phthisical diarrhea, but does not avail much in those disorders. Not being at all stimulant, it may be useful when sedative astringents are required. It has cured a periodical hemoptysis according to Dr. Harris. It is also used in Veterinary for the diseases of cattle or horses, and cures the bloody water of cattle. The doses are one to two ounces in infusion or decoction, two to four drachms of the tincture, fifteen to forty grains of the powder, and ten to fifteen grains of the extract, which is a most powerful and efficient astringent, equalled only by the extract of Spirea tomentosa.
Substitutes—Orobanche Virginiana—Statice Caroliniana—Tormentilla erecta—Rubus villosus—Heuchera species—Geum Sp.—Spirea tomentosa and Sp. opulifolia—Kino, Catechu, Galls and all powerful vegetable astringents.
Remarks—The officinal kinos are four. 1. African Kino or Pterocarpus erinacea, 2. Botany Bay Kino or Eucalyptus resinifera, 3. Jamaica Kino or Butea frondosa, 4. American Kino or Geranium maculatum, this last is the most efficient and powerful, by far preferable to all the others, since it has no bitterish taste nor resinous matter, like the first and third, nor the disagreeable sweetish taste of the second. It ought to supersede them in our pharmacies at least, if not elsewhere. The Catechu or extract of Mimosa Catechu is merely equal to it.
The Geranium robertianum of Europe, grows also in North America from New England to Ohio, on stony hills, and is a weak equivalent of the G. maculatum; but it is also diuretic, and therefore more available in nephritis, gravel, and diseases of the bladder. It will be easily known by its musky smell, annual root, small flowers, &c.