Sabbatia Angularis, Centaury.

Botanical name: 

Table 24. Sabbatia angularis. American Centaury. Centory. Centry. Angular-stalked Sabbatia.
Germ. Eckige Chironie. (Willd.)
Sabbatia angularis, Adanson,
Parad. Lond. t. 32.
L. Sp. Pl. 272.
Houttuyn Pfl. Syst. 5 p. 701.
Willd. Sp. Pl. tom. 1. p. 1067.
Shoepf, Mat. Med. Am. p. 27.
Pursh, Fl. Am. Sep. vol. 1. p. 137.
Barton's Collections, part 2. p. 15.
Mich. Fl. Boreali-Am. vol. 1. p. 146.
Pers. Syn. Pl. vol. 1. p. 282.
Thatch. Disp. ed. 2d. p. 180.
Coxe Disp. ed. 3d. p. 259.
Bart. Prod. Fl. Ph. p. 32.
Muhl. Cat. Pl. Am. Sep. 23.


Adanson. Parad. Lond. t. 32.

Caps. 1-locularis. Cor. tubo urceolato, limbo 5-12-partito. Stigm. 2-partitum; laciniis spiralibus. Anth. demum revoluta.
Nat. Syst. Juss. Gentianae. Classis VIII. Ordo XIII.
Nat. Ord. Lin. Rosacea.
Classis Pentandria, Ordo Monogynia. Lin. Syst.

Gen. Ch. Cal. Perianth one-leafed, five-cleft, erect, permanent j segments oblong, acute. Cor. monopetalous, salver-shaped, or almost wheel-shaped, regular; tube scarcely longer than the calix; border five-cleft, spreading; segments egg-shaped, open. Stam. Filaments five, short, attached to the tip of the tube: anthers oblong, erect, converging, spirally twisted after shedding the pollen. Pist. Germ superior, egg-shaped; style filiform, a little longer than the stamens, declining; stigma capitate, ascending. Peric. Capsule or berry egg-shaped, two-celled. Lin. Smith (one-celled; Lam. Gart.) valves inflexed. Smith. Seeds numerous, small, attached to the sides of the receptacle.
Ess. Ch. Corolla salver-shaped. Stamens inserted into the tube; anthers finally becoming spiral. Style declining. Pericarp superior, two-celled; valves inflexed. Smith.
Obs. In some of the species the anthers have not been observed to become spiral.

Sabbatia angularis, erecta; foliis ovatis amplexicaulibus, pedunculis elongato-corymbosis, calice corollae semibreviores, laciniis lanccolatis, caule marginato-quadrangulo. Pursh. Fl. Am.


Chironia herbacea, caule acutangulo, foliis ovatis amplexicaulibus. Sp. Pl.
Chironia angularis. Willd. Sp. Pl. Mich. Muh. &.c.

Pharm. Sabbatix angularis herba.
Qual. Aromatica, amara.
Usus. Infusum in febribus.

Descriptio Uberior.

Facies Chironis Centaurii. Caulis pedalis, tetragonus: alis membranaceis. Folia ovata (acuta) opposita, sessilia et semi-amplexicauha. Flores congesti, ut in Hyperico; antherae spirales; stylus bifidus. Willd. Sp. Pl.

The subject of this article is a very elegant plant. It is universally known by the different names enumerated above, through out the United States, and it is no less valued for its medicinal virtues than admired for its beauty.

The root is annual; it consists of a few thick yellowish-white fibres, and sends up a single stem (rarely two) simple below, but very much and regularly branched above. The stem is herbaceous, from one foot to eighteen inches high, smooth, four-sided, with membranous wings at the angles. The branches are axillary, and of a similar structure. The leaves are opposite, ovate, acute, closely sessile, or nearly amplexicaule, three nerved. They vary, however, in being longer and narrower. The flowers are very numerous, growing at the extremities of the branches, in numbers from two to five; are of a beautiful rose-red colour above, much paler and nearly white in the centre underneath, which gives to the buds a white appearance. In the centre of the corolla there is a defined, pentangular star, of a rich yellow colour, bordered with green. The petals are obovate, and vary in being narrower, sometimes nearly lanceolate-obtuse. The calix consists of five narrow acute, or almost subulate segments, little more than half the length of the corolla. The anthers are spiral, of a rich yellow colour. The plant is in full flower in July.

Sabbatia angularis is a common plant, being extensively distributed throughout the Union. It is most frequently found in low meadow grounds, but not uncommonly on hills, and in neglected fields. It grows abundantly in the swampy grounds near Woodbury, New Jersey, and on the high banks of the Schuylkill, and hilly fields, on the Woodlands, near this city. In the months of August and September, it is brought in vast quantities to our market, by the Jersey people, and those who come from the neighbourhood of West-Chester (twenty miles from Philadelphia). Near the latter place I have been informed by the market people, it grows in great profusion; and indeed this is evident from the quantities they bring of it for sale. Though the centaury is so much esteemed, and so universally purchased, it is vended in large bunches at six cents each, owing to the abundance.

Medical Properties.

Centaury, like nearly all of the very natural family of Gentianae, to which the genus belongs, is an intense bitter, every part of the plant equally partaking of this quality.

It is justly held in estimation as a valuable tonic bitter; and for this property it has received a place in this work. It seems to differ from the Chironia centaurium, or Lesser-Centaury of Europe, in the circumstance of the flowers, as well as the other parts of the plant, being intensely bitter. In every other respect it is very similar, and equally deserving of extensive use. It has been very generally administered in febrile diseases throughout the United States, by regular practitioners; it is also much used in domestic practice, as a prophylactic against autumnal fevers. The late Dr. Barton says it "was much employed in the year 1793, in certain stages of yellow fever;" and the doctor was of opinion that it was often used with much benefit. [Collections for a Materia Medica of the United States.]

On the whole, Centaury may be confidently recommended, for its pure bitter, tonic and stomachic virtues. It ought to have a place in all the apothecaries' shops of our country. It readily yields its active virtues to aqueous and spiritous menstrua. But the infusion, taken cold, is the most common method of using the medicine. It may also be given in powder, but not, I think, so advantageously. Perhaps an extract would be an useful preparation; in some diseases this mode of using the plant might have a just preference to the infusion. I have often prescribed the infusion and spiritous tincture, and have taken both myself. From experience, therefore, I can state, that the plant affords a grateful and efficacious tonic bitter, quite equal to the European plant, and much more readily procured. Indeed it is doubtful whether the Lesser-Centaury can be procured any where in our shops, in sufficient abundance to be extensively used; whereas the plant under notice is within the reach of every one.

Table XXIV.

Fig. 1. Represents the upper portion of Sabbatia angularis, of the size of nature.
2. Front view of a separated flower.
3. The calix and pistil.
4. Back view of a separated flower, shewing the calix and under side of the corolla.
5. A stamen.
6. The pistil.

The flowers are not unfrequently of the size of the smallest ones represented in this drawing; but in specimens taken from favourable situations they are as large as figured.

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.