No. 49. Heuchera acerifolia.
English Name—MAPLELEAF ALUMROOT.
French Name—Heuchere Erable.
Officinal Name—Heuchera radix.
Vulgar Names— Alumroot, Sanicle, Ground Maple, Cliffweed, Split-rock, &c.
Authorities—for the Genus—Lin. Mich. Pursh. Nuttal, Eaton, Torrey, Elliott, Dispens. Murray, Stokes, B. Barton, W. Barton, Bigelow seq., Zollickoffer, Coxe, &c.
Genus HEUCHERA—Calix persistent, campanulate, five cleft. Five entire equal lanceolate petals inserted on the calix. Five stamina inserted on the calix. Pistil central, free, round, cleft, two styles. Capsule bind, bilocular, many seeded. Leaves radical, cordate and jagged, with radiating nerves, scape with a terminal panicle of flowers.
Species H. ACERIFOLIA—Petioles hirsute, leaves smooth, glaucous beneath, acutely five cleft, unequally toothed, teeth mucronate: scape smooth, panicle elongated, laxiflore, minutiflore, petals short, stamina exserted.
Description—Root perennial, yellowish, horizontal, crooked, with few fibres. Radical leavelong petioles, slender and covered with short stiff hairs: shaped like those of the maple trees, base deeply and acutely cordate, circumference acutely five cleft, sometimes seven cleft or even nine cleft; segments angular, acute, unequally toothed, teeth short, rounded, mucronate; only five branched nerves: both surfaces smooth, upper green, lower glaucous. Scapes round, smooth, fistulose, straight, one or two feet high.
Flowers very small, forming a long panicle, occupying the upper half of the scape, cylindrical, but loose, small pinnatifid or pectinated bracts at the base of the branches, which are scattered and irregularly divided with small subulate bracteoles at the lower divisions; pedicels longer than the flower. Calix with five acute teeth. Petals lanceolate, flesh colored, filaments subulate, erect, jutting out, anthers rounded. Pistil bifid with two long styles, stigma obtuse. Capsule with two beaks, opening inside of the beaks, with two cells formed by the involute valves. Many small black seeds.
Locality—In the mountains, hills, cliffs and fissures of rocks in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, &.c.
History—All the species of this very natural genus have the same properties, and are used indiscriminately under the name of Alumroot; they shall therefore be united in this article. I have thought preferable to figure one of my new species, rather than to give another figure of the most common kind, wrongly called H. americana. Since the H. dichotoma has been removed from this genus, all the known species are North American, and possess the peculiar habit.
Linnaeus only knew one species, Michaux two, Nuttal three, Pursh five, and I know seven, besides many varieties, without being sure of having seen all the species of Pursh and Elliott. As this genus is yet in a great confusion and uncertainty, I shall mention here only those which I have seen: they are besides the actual.
1. H. Viscida of Pursh, (or H. cortusa of Michaux, the H. americana of Linnaeus, &c. and W. Bart. fig. 40.) Vicidly pubescent, scapes and leaves a little scabrous, leaves oblong cordate ciliate, many rounded lobes, and unequal mucronate teeth, surface concolor: panicle short and laxiflore, calix short, obtuse, petals short lanceolate, stamina exserted.—The most common species east of the Alleghany mountains, rare to the west: petals rose. The varieties are 1. Macrophylla, 2. Maculata, 3. Scabra, &c.
2. H. Villosa of Michaux, (or H. hispida of Pursh.) Entirely hairy, leaves cordate, with a. lobes, panicle laxiflore, minutiflore, pedicels filiform, calix acute, petals short, &c.—In the Alleghany mountains of Virginia, Carolina, &c. Flowers very small, petals white.
3. H. Pulverulenta (or H. pubescens of Pursh, &c.) Leaves pulverulent-pubescent, cordate, with a lobes, toothed, smooth beneath; scape smooth below, rough above, panicle crowded, petals longer than calix, stamina hardly exserted.—In the mountains from New England to Pennsylvania: petals red and yellow. Var. 1. Rubra, 2. Grandiflora, &c.
4. H. Squamosa Raf. Petioles pilose, leaves subhirsute, ciliate, cordate, acutely seven lobed, denticulate, glaucous beneath: scapes hairy, with oval distant scales; panicle short or oval, crowded, and scaly, pedicels short, calix obtuse, stamina exserted.—In the mountains of Maryland and Virginia, the Cumberland mountains of Kentucky, &c. Leaves rather small, lowers middle size. Var. 1. Pumila, 2. Laxiflora, 3. Confertiflora.
5. H. Reniformis Raf. Petioles smooth, leaves reniform rounded, faintly lobed and toothed, ciliolate, concolor, sub-hirsute above, smooth beneath: scapes rough, panicle elongated, grandiflore, laxiflore, pedicels filiform, calix urceolate obtuse, petals and stamina exserted.—In the Cumberland mountains and Knob hills of Kentucky: leaves and flowers large, petals white.
6. H. Glauca Raf. Smooth, glaucous, leaves cordate obtusely lobed, mucronate-denticulate; panicle laxiflore, elongated, minutiflore, petals and stamina short. In the Cumberland mountains.
They all grow among rocks and near streams, blossoming in June and July. The genus has been dedicated to Heucher, a German botanist. It belongs to the natural order of DICERES or Saxifragides, differing from Saxifraga merely by having five instead of ten stamina, and to Pentandria Digynia of L.
Qualities—The whole plants are astringent; but the roots strongly so, and biting on the tongue like alum, but nearly scentless. They contain nearly the same elements as Geranium maculatum, but more tannin and acid.
Properties—The root of these plants is a powerful astringent styptic, antiseptic, vulnerary and detergent, probably equal to Geranium maculalum and Spirea tomentosa. It was used by the Indians, and is still used in Kentucky and the Alleghany mountains, in powder, as an external remedy in sores, wounds, ulcers, and even cancers: it is one of the bases of the cancer powders of Empirics; united to Orobanche, Hydrastis, &c. It is employed as a styptic in internal and external hemorrhagy, bleeding of the nose, foul or indolent ulcers, wounds and cuts. It is seldom taken internally the taste being so intensively astringent; but it promises to be useful even in very small doses, whenever astringents are indicated. Coxe says that the Alumroot has been sold for the Colchicum, to which it bears no resemblance in form nor properties.
Substitutes—Geranium, Geum, Spirea, Statice Sp. and other powerful astringents.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.