Gillenia Stipulacea. Small-Flowered Indian-Physic.

Botanical name: 

Table 06. Gillenia stipulacea. Also see Gillennia trifoliata.

Gillenia stipulacea. Wllld. enum. plant. Pursh. fl. Am. Sep. vol. i. p. 343.

Gillenia stipulacea. G. foliis ternatis lanceolatis inciso-serratis subxquabbjus, stipulis foliaceis ovatis inciso-dentatis, floribus terminalibus laxe paniculatis 5-gynis, calice campanulato. (Willd. enum. et Pursh. fl. Am. sep. sub nomine Spiraeae stipulaceae.)

Descriptio Uberior.

Planta simillima Gilleniae trifoliate, tam radice quam habitu. Discrepantia notissima in stipulis foliaceis, et foliis inferis est. Caules plures, supra ramosi; colore fulvi aut rubicundi. Foliis ternatis; foliolis versus apicem lanceolatis, profunde inciso-serratis, plerumque, aequalibus; infra pinnatifidis, et tripartitis, colore fulvis. Stipulae magnx foliacex, ovatae, acuminata:, profunde serratae, basi inaequales. Serraturse stipularum ramorum, irregulariter incisx, Serraturae stipularum caulium, magis regulares. Floribus minores quam in ftillenia trifoliata. Pedunculis sub-setaciformibus longis. Calix simpbciter campanulatus, basi abrupte tenuinatus in quinque segmentibus divisus. Stamina et pistillum ac in G. trifoliata. Habitat in calcareis montibus Ohioensibus, et bine ad Floridam usque; floret Junio. B.

I am indebted to Mr. Nuttall for the pleasure I experience in presenting the medical world, with a figure of this interesting plant. The drawing has been made with much care, from line specimens received from him, which he collected in the vicinity of Cincinnati in Ohio. To botanists I trust the figure will be acceptable, since this second well characterised species, fully establishes the validity of Moenich's genus, Gillenia, and will justify me in restoring it. Neither Michaux nor Muhlenberg has noticed the plant; it was first described by Willdenow, whom Pursh has quoted. The late Professor Barton observes in his "Collections," speaking of the Spiraea trifoliata, "it is said that there grows in the state of Kentucky another species, which is still more valuable, as an emetic, than the S. trifoliata." [Vol. 2. p. 29.] The plant here figured, is, without doubt, the one alluded to by Dr. Barton. That this is the fact, sufficiently appears from the account Mr. Nuttall gives of it; and also from a rude sketch evidently of the stipulacea, now in my possession, made with a pen, by the late Rev. Dr. J. P. Campbell of Lexington, Kentucky, who has added the English name, Indian-physic, and called the plant Spiraea trifoliata. There is no doubt that the two species have been heretofore generally confounded under the specific appellation trifoliata, by the American botanists, and indiscriminately used by physicians in the country; though it would seem by Dr. Barton's remark, that the circumstance of another species existing in the Western States, had been communicated to him, with the assurance that this was the more valuable. Their strong resemblance to each other, may readily account for the indiscriminate use of both, under one common name.

Gillenia stipulacea has a root, according to Dr. Campbell's sketch, corroborated by Mr. Nuttall's description of it, precisely similar to the root of G. trifoliata represented in table 5, fig. %; and what has been said of the root of that plant in the preceding article, may be applied to this one. It is of course perennial. Mr. Nuttall informs me that the whole plant is much taller, and more bushy than G. trifoliata; and sends up a vast number of stems from each root. The stems are brownish, branched at the top, and bear the flowers on long slender peduncles, in the form of a lax corymbose panicle. The upper leaves of the stems, and those of the branches, are ternate, lanceolate, cut-serrate, and nearly equal. Those approaching the bottom are deeply incised, and the segments cut-serrate; the lowest leaves are pinnatifid, and of a reddish brown colour. The stipules resemble leaves; are ovate, acuminate, deeply serrate, and unequal at the base. The serratures of the stipules of the branches, are more deeply and more irregularly cut than those of the cauline stipules. The flowers are smaller than those of G. trifoliata, and the calix is simply campanulate, being abruptly terminated at its union with the peduncle, and not inflated in the middle, nor attenuated at its base, like the calix of G. trifoliata.

The following account of the geographical range of this species of Indian-physic, I quote from a memorandum given me by Mr. Nuttall:

"Gillenia stipulacea begins to appear south-westward on the high gravelly banks of the Ohio, soon after passing the confluence of the Muskingum. Here we no more meet with the G. trifoliata of the mountains and the eastern states, which it so much resembles, as to be almosf uniformly confounded with it by most of the western botanists; continuing along the whole course of the Ohio we also find it, occupying the soils and situations of G. trifoliata throughout the Illinois, Indiana, and Louisiana, where I first became acquainted with it, in the neighbourhood of St. Louis. It does not, however, continue far up the Missouri. Its medicinal properties are, it may be presumed, very similar to those of the G. trifoliata; and it is probably the only species made use of by the western physicians."

The G. stipulacea, according to the remarks on the sketch made by Dr. Campbell, is found in "Virginia, most abundantly in the woods west south-west of Parkersburg. Fifteen miles west of Marietta, on the Athens road, it commences, and abounds in company with a great abundance of Columbo;" (I presume, Frasera verticillata,) "also at Bellville."

G. stipulacea flowers in June.

The variety marked β incisa by Pursh, and which he describes "foliis ternatis, foliolis pinnatifidis inciso-dentatis," I strongly suspect to be nothing more than the lower portions of our plant; and I venture this opinion, from an accurate examination of the specimens from which I made the figure. No. S, the lower portion of the plant, evidently fits the ahove description of the supposed variety. In all probability, the tendency of the leaves to become pinnatifid, occasionally extends further: and I should not doubt, that when there exists such amorphous shapes in the foliage, the whole plant would sometimes partake of the character of the lower leaves represented in the plate.

There is but little doubt that this plant is sufficiently hardy to endure transplanting; and it might readily be propagated, I should suppose, by a separation of the roots. It will be of some consequence, however, in cultivating it, to bear in mind its natural soil, as noticed in the preceding page. Both this, and the other species of Gillenia, are important medicinal plants; and as one or the other is found in almost every state in the union, physicians and apothecaries in the country, would find it to their advantage to collect it for use, as well as for sale in the shops.

Medical Properties.

What has been said by Schoepf, Barton, and others who have quoted them, concerning the virtues and doses of Spiraea trifoliata, is applicable to the G. stipulacea, for reasons above given. The bark of the root is used; and the roots should be collected in September, after the tops have died. The dose is the same as that of G. trifoliata; though perhaps a smaller quantity would answer.

Table VI.

Fig. 1. Represents the upper portion of Gillenia stipulacea.
2. The lower portion.
3. The calix.
4. The same opened, shewing the stametis.
5. A petal, with a view to shew its shape.
6. The Pistil, shewing the five styles.

Vegetable Materia Medica of the U.S. or Medical Botany, 1817 (Vol. I), 1818 (Vol. II), was written by William P. C. Barton, M. D.