No. 63. Menyanthes verna.
Classif.Nat. Order of Gantianides. Pentandria monogynia L.
Genus MENYANTHES. Calix five parted, persistent, corolla five cleft, with a short tube, segments fringed above, five stamens, shorter than the corolla, one style, stigma bifid, capsule ovate, one celled, bivalve, seeds numerous, inserted on the valves.
Sp. Menyanthes verna, Raf. Radical leaves triparted, segments oblong obovate, obtuse, erose, scapes racemose, longer than the leaves, raceme conical, bracts ovate, concave, shorter than the peduncles, corolla fringed at the base, not ciliated.
Description. Root perennial, creeping, jointed, leaves and scapes proceeding from the joints, sheathed at the base by broad, oblong, obtuse stipules, leaves on long terete petioles, cut up into three deep segments or folioles, sessile, oblong, oboval, obtuse, somewhat repand or erose on the margin, thick and glabrous, scape ascending, terete smooth, about a foot high, bearing a conical raceme of flowers. Peduncles scattered, streight axillary to shorter bracts, ovate, obtuse, concave, calix subcampansitate, five parted, acute; corolla white, with a red tinge, a short tube, five oval acute segments, spreading or revolute, fringed at the base above, by obtuse fibres, five short erect stamens, anthers sagittate, germ ovate, style terete, persistent, stigma compressed and bifid, capsule with two valves, bearing numerous minute seeds in lateral receptacles.
History. This plant is common to the north of the two continents. The American plant, figured here, is confined to the North, in Canada, New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, but it spreads in the mountains as far South as Virginia. It forms a peculiar species called variety Minor, by Michaux and Bigelow, which is well distinguished from the M. trifoliata of Europe, of which the characters are:
M. trifoliata. L. Leaves triparted, segments oval, obtuse, repand, scapes racemose, shorter than the leaves, raceme slender, bracts lanceolate acute, corolla ciliated and fringed all over above; flowers rose colour, blossoming in summer. It is a beautiful plant, growing in or near marshes, bogs, ponds, and brooks, blossoming in April and May. The generic name means Moonflower; it is one ot the shamrocks, vegetable emblems of Ireland.
Properties. Tonic, stomachic, febrifuge, purgative, asthntic, antipsoric, diaphoretic, anthelmintic, &c. as in M. trifoliata. The whole plant is bitter, like Gentian, but the root is more intensely so. It contains a resin and an extractive matter, soluble in water and alcohol, much esteemed in Europe, and even esteemed a kind of panacea in Germany. In small doses of about ten grains, it imparts vigour to the stomach and the whole frame, cures intermittent and remittent fevers, &c. In large doses of a drachm, or a strong decoction, it acts like Eupatorium perfoliatum, producing purging, vomiting, and profuse perspiration. Its unpleasant bitter taste renders it inconvenient for that purpose. It has been used with success in many other disorders, gout, rheumatism, herpes, dropsy, scurvy, and worms. It keeps off the paroxysm of gout, and Boerhaave cured himself by drinking its juice with whey. Its tea was found good in cutaneous and scorbutic affections. It acts as a powerful bitter tonic, and may be used whenever indicated; the powder, tincture, and infusion are equally efficient. In Lapland and Germany, it is substituted for hops in beer; one ounce is equal to one pound of hops. Sheep will sometimes eat it, notwithstanding its bitterness.