No. 59. Leptandra purpurea.
Classif.Nat. Ord. Pederotia. Diandria monogynia L.
Genus LEPTANDRA. Calix 5 parted, corolla tubular, nearly equal, 4 fid, 2 stamina, and 1 style, both long and slender. Capsule oval, bilocula, semi-bivalve. Seeds many and central. Leaves verticillate, flowers spiked.
Sp. Leptandra purpurea. Raf. Smooth, stem round, leaves ternate, sessile, elliptic, both ends acute, unequally serrate, spike angular, verticillate, base interrupted.
Description. Root perennial, large, black, with many long fibres. Stem 15 to 20 inches high, simple, erect, smooth, round. Leaves whorled by three, sessile, smooth, longer than the intermodes below, shorter above: of a broad oblong form, breadth 2-5ths of the length, somewhat cuneate and entire at the base, end acute, margin with unequal serrate teeth, sometimes double serrate in the middle; nerved and pale beneath. Flowers in a handsome single terminal, spike 3 to 4 inches long, purplish, rachis angular, bearing crowded whorls of flowers, separated towards the base; each flower has a small bract, oval, acuminate. Calix with 5 equal divisions, oval acuminate, somewhat ciliate, corolla tubular, cylindric, limbus with 4 oval acute divisions, nearly equal. Two filaments twice as long as the corolla, anthers fulvous, oblong, obtuse, sulcate. Style as long as filaments, stigma simple acute.
History. The Veronica Virginica of Linnaeus was widely different from the genus in habit and characters, and 3 or 4 species were blended under that name. I formed with it the Genus Callistachya in 1803, but finding that Brown had established an Australian genus of that name, I changed it to Eustachya: both meaning fine spike. But in 1818 Nuttall called it Leptandra; that name meaning slender stamina, being equally good, and now more generally adopted. I have used it here, although I had published, in 1820, a Monography of the Eustachya and its 4 species, wherein I first described the purple kind. The others were the Veronica Sibirica of L. or Leptandra Cerulea, and the V. virginica of Thunberg, very different from ours, which must be called L. japonica, besides the true V. virginica of L. which I designate as follows, and call
2. Leptandra alba, stem angular and smooth, leaves verticillated, commonly by five, semi-petiolate, lanceolate, acuminate, unequally and mucronately serrate, spikes dense, cylindrical, flowers white.
This is therefore very different from my purpurea. It is, however, the most common species, being found all over the United States, while the L. purpurea is confined to the savanas of the South and the West. They have both the same properties, and are used promiscuously.
The L. alba has many varieties, such as—1. Quadrifolia. 2. Multicaulis. 3. Polystachya. 4. Macrostadrya. 5. Angustifolia, &c. The L. purpurea has fewer—1, Heterophylla, upper leaves opposite, ovate. 2. Prolifera, spike subramose. 3. Pallida, with pale or whitish flowers.
A third species of this genus appears to grow in the United States, very different from the L. alba and purpurea. It is the Veronica virginica described by Vahl and Poiset, but not L. Mr. Schriveinitz has found it in North Carolina; it may be called and designated as follow:
3. Leptandra villosa. Stem round, branched, hairy, and brown; leaves oval lanceolate, subpetiolate, subserrate, acuminate, hairy, and brownish beneath, lower whorls by five, upper by three or four, and sessile; spike cylindrical, pubescent, base lax, bracts subulate, calix lanceolate, unequal, flowers white.
These plants blossom in summer, and are very ornamental, but scentless. They have many local names; the Delaware Indians call them Quitel; the Missouri and Osages Hini; black root is a name common to many plants and liable to deceive; the Pterocaulon is thus called in the South, and the Botrophis in many parts. The local names of Bowman, Brinton, Culvert, were given from men who used the roots in practice.
Properties. The root alone is medical; it is bitter and nauseous, has never been analyzed, and is commonly used in warm decoction as purgative and emetic, acting somewhat like the Eupatorium and Verbena hastata; some boil it in milk for a milder cathartic, or as a sudorific in pleurisy. A strong decoction of the fresh roots is a violent and disagreeable, but effectual and popular remedy in the Western States for the summer bilious fevers; some physicians depend upon it altogether. The roots loose much of their virulence by drying, and a drachm of the powder becomes an uncertain purgative: while, when fresh, they are drastic and dangerous in substance, and said to produce bloody stools, dizziness, vertigo, and abortion. The safest way is to use it in weak and cold infusion. Employed also for rheumatism, spasms, and bilious complaints.