Prinos Verticillatus. Winter-Berry.

Botanical name: 

Table 17. Prinos verticillatus. Black-Alder. Whorled Winter-berry. Virginian Winter-berry.

Germ. Die Wortelförmige Winterbeer. Virginische Winterbeere. (Willd.)
English. Deciduous Winter-berry, or Service-bush.
French. Apalanche (Apalanchine) a feuilles de prunier.

Prinos verticillatus, L.
Sp. Pl. vol. 1. p. 471.
Munt. Phyt. 213. t. 51.
Duham. Arb. 1. p. 62. t. 23.
Mill. Dict. n. 1.
Du Roi Harbk. 2. p. 157.
Wangenh. Amer. 97.
Willd. Arb. 236.
Willd. Sp. Pl. tom. 2. par. 1. p. 225.
Gron. Virg. 39.
Houttuyn. Lin. Pfl. Syst. 1. p. 430.
Pers. Syn. Pl. vol. 1. p. 387.
Mich. Fl. Boreali-Am. vol. 2. p. 236.
Coxe. Am. Disp. ed. 3. p. 519.
Barton's Collections, part 2. p. 5.
Pursh. Fl. Am. Sep. vol. 1. p. 221.
Bart. Prodr. Fl. Ph. p. 44.
Big. Florula Bost. p. 79.
Shoepf. Mat. Med. Am. p. 50.
Smith's Insects of Georgia, t. 86.
Ait. Hort. Kew. ed. 2. vol. 2. p. 312.
Willd. Enum. 394.
Muhl. Cat. Fl. Am. Sep. p. 36.
St. Hilaire, Germ, des plant, vol. 2. p. 269.


Gen. Plant. ed. Schreb. n. 594.

Cal. 6-fidus. Cor. 1-petala, rotata. Bacca 6-sperma. (Willd. Sp. Pl.)
Cal. inferus, 6-fidus. Cor. 1-petala rotata, 3-7-fida, JBac. 6-sperma. JHoicm. (Pursh. fl. Am. Sep.)
Nat. Syst. Juss. Rhamni. Classis XIV. Ordo XIII.

Prinos, L. Apalachine. Calix minimus 6 fidus. Corolla 6-partita plana. Stamina 6, filamentis subulatis, antheris oblongis. Stylus brevis; stigma 1. Bacca subrotunda, fceta, 6nucibus 1-spermis. Arbusculx aut frutices; folia alterna, in quibusdam sempervirentia; pedunculi axillares multiflori; flores parvi, interdum 5-7-8-fidi 5-7-8-andri 5-7-8-spermi. Juss. Gen. Plant. p. 379.
Nat. Syst. St. Hilaire. Neprunees.
Nat. Ord. Linnaei, Dumosx.
Classis Hexandria. Ordo Monogynia. Lin. Syst.

Gen. Ch. Cal. Perianth inferior, of one leaf, six-cleft half way down, flat, very small, permanent. Cor. of one petal, wheel-shaped; tube none; limb flat; deeply cloven into six ovate segments. Sta?n. Filaments six, awl-shaped, erect, shorter than the corolla; anthers oblong, obtuse. Pist. Germen superior, ovate, terminating in a style shorter than the stamens; stigma obtuse. Peric. a roundish berry, six-celled, much larger than the calix. Seeds solitary, bony, obtuse, convex on one side, angular on the other.
Obs. The chief difference between this and Ilex consists in its being hexandrous; but the parts of fructification, according to Jussieu, agree occasionally with that genus in number. Prinos is sometimes dioicious.
Ess. Ch. Calix inferior, six cleft. Corolla of one petal, wheel-shaped, from three to seven cleft. Berry of six seeds. Ency.

Prinos Gronovii; foliis ovalibus, serrulatis, acuminatis: fasciculis florum masc. axillaribus, umbellati-formibus; floribus foemineis aggregatis; utrisque 6-partitis. Mich. Fl. Boreali-Am. (in Dioecia-Hexandria.)
Prinos verticillatus, foliis deciduis ovalibus serratis acuminatis subtus pubescentibus, fasciculis florum masc. axillaribus umbelluliformibus; foemineis aggregatis utrinque 6-partitis.
Willd. Sp. Pl. et Pursh Fl. Am. Sep.


Alcanna major latifolia dentata. Munt. Phyt.
Aquifolium foliis deciduis. Duham. Arb.
Prinos Gronovii. Mich. Fl. Boreali-Am.
Prinos padifolius. Willd. Enum.

Pharm. Prini vertitillati Cortex (et Bacca).
Vis: Antiseptica (et tonica).
Usus: Gangrena, Icterus. Shoepf. Mat. Med.

Descriptio Uberior.

Frutex fructu formosus. Rami horizontales, patuli, cinerei. Folia decidua, ovalia, serrata, acuminata, basi attenuata, brevius petiolata nervibus subtus pilosiusculis. Flores minimi, axillai'es. Corolla alba, monopetala, plerumque 6-partita. Baccse formoss, coccinex, amara. Habitat in paludibus, et umbrosis humidis; floret Junio et Julio. Bart. Fl. Ph. MS.

One of the most beautiful ornaments of the swamps of our country, in the autumn and winter, is the Winter-berry. The elegant colour of the berries, aggregated in numbers of two and three on the small branches of the shrub, together with their multitude, afford a pleasing contrast to the fading vegetation. The generic name Prinos, is of very ancient origin, having been used by Theophrastus and Dioscorides; and it is supposed to be derived from the Greek verb πριω, to saw; and to have been applied to this genus by Linnaeus, on account of the strong serratures of the leaves in some of the species.

Prinos verticillatus is a shrub, of from eight to ten feet in height, found growing in and near swamps, on the borders of rivulets and ditches, and in damp woods with moist bottom, every where from Canada to Georgia. It flowers in the month of June, and- at this time it has a very ordinary appearance; but when its berries are full ripe, which is in the last part of October, and beginning of November, is strikingly beautiful. At these periods the leaves remain on; but even after they have fallen, the appearance of the shrub, from its multitude of rich crimson, and sometimes scarlet berries, is exceedingly handsome.

The stem is shrubby, and branched all the way up. The branches are alternate, horizontal, spreading, and of a bluish grey or ash-colour; the extremities, or new shoots, being greenish. The leaves are oval, tapering at their base, ending in a long point; and sawed on their edges. They are of a dark, or somewhat olive-green colour, and smooth above, but downy on the nerves and veins beneath. They are alternately arranged along the branches, and are supported by short foot-stalks. The flowers are often dioicous; small, and white, and grow together in axillary and lateral groups of from three to four in number, rarely solitary. The corolla is monopetalous, rotate; and six, sometimes seven cleft. The stamens are generally six in number. The berries are globular, and vary a little in size, as represented in the plate, but are generally of the magnitude of a marrowfat pea. As winter advances, they become of a more purplish colour. That the plant may be easily identified when sought after for medical purposes, I have represented it both in flower and fruit; but while in the latter condition, it should be chosen for medical use. This plant was introduced into England in 1736, by Peter Collinson.

Medical Properties.

Prinos verticillatus, is, perhaps, as well known among country physicians (who call it Black-Alder) as any indigenous medicinal plant of the United States. It is universally and justly celebrated as a medicine. Shoepf first publicly noticed its virtues. He says it is an "antiseptic, and is used in gangrene and jaundice." This is all he has on the subject; and the verity of his observation is proved by the fact, that at this time it is successfully employed by country practitioners and others, as an antiseptic, in cases of foul ulcers and mortification. The bark is astringent, bitter, pungent, and not very disagreeable. The first of these virtues has probably led to its use in diarrhoea, which disease Mr. Abbot says it is useful in curing. It has been, and continues to be, much used, and efficatiously, instead of Peruvian bark, in intermittent fevers and other complaints. In cases of great debility, unattended by fever, it has been highly extolled; and both its sensible properties, and well-known effects, render it probable that its reputation in such cases is merited. It has also been, used and praised, as a corroborant in anasarca and general dropsy; and as an antiseptic and tonic in cases of incipient gangrene. [Barton's Collections.] In these cases it is given internally, and employed at the same time, externally, as a wash. The berries participate in all the virtues already enumerated, as appertaining to the bark; and brandy infusions or tinctures made of them, are in general use in the country, in all cases where bitter tinctures are indicated. Country practitioners combine the bark, with the root of sassafras (Laurus sassafras) with white-oak bark, and other things, and make a decoction of the mixture, which is much commended by them as a wash in foul ulcers, and gangrene.

Upon the whole, the Prinos verticillatus may be confidently recommended to the notice of physicians, as a plant possessing in an eminent degree, the properties of vegetable, astringent, and tonic medicines. And if, added to these, we take into view the antiseptic powers it is reputed to possess, it will be found deserving of no ordinary commendation. Of the last mentioned property, indeed, from experience, I know nothing; but having used both bark and berries on several occasions, it is with no little satisfaction that I bear testimony to its deserved claim to those commendations which have been bestowed on it for the other virtues.

The bark may be used either in substance or in decoction. To the latter it readily yields its virtues; as it also does to vinous or spiritous menstruums. From one drachm to three, of the powdered bark, may be administered in the course of twenty-four hours. An ounce of the bark, added to a pint and an half of water, and boiled down to a pint, will make a useful decoction, which may be taken in the dose of a gill every two hours. A saturated tincture is a convenient and useful way of extracting the virtues of the plant; and this tincture may be made by mixing the bark and berries together, and letting them digest for a few days.

It may be proper to caution those who gather the Prinos or Black-Alder, for medical use, against mistaking for it the CandleAlder, or Swamp- Alder, which names are applied to a species of a very different genus, the Betula serratula. The name Black-Alder may lead to a further mistake, since it is appropriated also to another species of Prinos, the P. ambiguus, and to the Ilex deliculata of Barton (Hex Canadensis). It is not improbable, however, that other species of Prinos, besides that under notice, will be found possessed of similar medical virtues. This it would be important to inquire into.

Table XVII.

Fig. 1. Is a delineation, of the natural size, of a portion of Prinos verticillatus in fruit, culled on the 14th of October. A week or two after this time, the leaves fall off, and the berries are left.
2. A little piece of a flowering branch, plucked in the middle of June, with the leaves out when they begin to widen.
3. A group of flowers, consisting of three, as is common, with the scale-like bracts at the union of the peduncles.
4. The pistil.
5. A back view of the calix.

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.