Triosteum Perfoliatum. Feverwort. Red-Flowered Fever-Root.

Botanical name: 

Table 04. Triosteum perfoliatum. Fever-root. Gentian. Bastard Ipecacuanha. Wild-Coffee. Dr. Tinker's weed. False Ipecacuan. White Gentian. Sweet-Bitter. Cinque. Perfoliate Fever-root.

Triosteum Perfoliatum.
Lin. Sp. pi. 250.
Amoen. acad. 4. p. 516.
Dill. elth. 394. t. 293. f. 378.
Mill. Dict. n. 1.
Vahl. Symb. 3. p. 37.
Gron. virg. ed. n. 31.
Cold, noveb. 244.
Willd. Sp. pi. Tom. i. p. 990.
Shoepf. Mat. Med. Am. p. 23.
Pers. vol. 3. p. 214.
Ait. Hort. Kew. ed. 3. Vol. i. p. 381.
Mich. Fl. Boreal. Am. vol. i. p. 107.
Muhl. cat. Am. Sep. p. 23.
Pur. fl. Am. Sep. vol. i. p. 162.
Barton's "Collections," &c. vol. i. p. 29.
Coxe's Am. Disp. ed. i. p. 679. ed. 3d. p. 634.
Barton's Prod. fl. Phil. p. 31.
Elliot, fl. car. &c.
Nuttall, Genera Am. Plants.


Triosteum. Lin. Cor. monopetala, subaequalis. Col. longitudine corollae. Bacca 3-locularis, 1-sperma, infera.
Nat. Syst. Juss. Caprifolia. Classis XI. Ordo III.

Triosteum. L. * Calix 5-fidus, laciniis lanceolatis persistentibus, basi bracteatus. Corolla vix calice lon gior, tubulosa 5-loba inaequalis. Stamina 5, non exserta. Stigma crassiusculis. Bacca coronata obovata 3-locularis, 3-sperma. Herbx ercct<e; foliorum petioli infra juncti; Jlores plurimi axillares sessiles. Gen. Plant. de Juss. p. 211.
Classis Pentandria. Ordo Monogynia. Lin. Syst.

Triosteum Perfoliatum. T. foliis ovalibus acuminatis, basi abrupte angustatis, latius angustiusve conna tis: axillis uni-plurifloris: corolla obscure purpurea. Mich. Fl. Boreal. Am. sub. synon. T. maji.


Triosteum majus. Mich.Fl. Boreali-Am. Vol. i. p. 107.
Triosteum foliis connatis, floribus sessilibus verticillatis. Vahl. symb. 3. p. 37.
Triosteum floribus verticillatis sessilibus. Mill. dict. n. 1.
Triosteospermum, latiore folio, flore rutilo. Dill. elth. 394. t. 293. f. 378.
Houttuyn Lin. Pfl. Syst. 5. p. 612.
Breitblättriger Dreystein. Willd. (German.)
Habitat in America Septentrionali. ♃.
Folia perfoliata. Wild. Sp. pi. Vol. i. p. 990.
Pharm. Triostei Radix.
Qual. amara. odor. pi. nauseosus j sapor herbaceous.
Vis. emetica.
Usus: febres intermittentes, pleuritis. Schoepf. Mat. Med.

Descriptio Uberior.

Planta bi vel tri-pedalis, aliquanto rara, et tota interdum purpurascens. Radix perennis, horizontalis, elongata. Caules multi, simplices, erecti, cylindrici. Folia magna, oblongo-ovalia, acuminata et fere connata, in basi panduriforma tcnninata. Versus apicem, basi attennuata et ample xi caules; omnes subtus dense pubescentes, cum nervis et costis conspicue prominentibus. Folia in summitate, sub florescentia, minora sunt, et convoluta; postquam magna et purpurascentia. Flores in axilis foliorum, venticillatx apparentes. Corolla vix calice longior, tubulosa, curvata, basi gibbosa, et apice in quinque lobis auriculatis, incisa; lacinix cordatse et clausse. Stamina quinque, in tubo corolla tecta: Pistillum ultra corollam; stigma crassiusculum. Lacinise caUcis quinque, persistentes, lineares, ciliatac, et omnino plerumque purpurascentes. Germen inferius, uno-bracteatum. Paces coronatae, obovatx, purpureo-coccinex, tri-loculares, et semina tria dura complectens.
Barton's Flora Philadelphica, M. S.

The root of Triosteum perfoliatum is perennial, horizontal, about eighteen inches or two feet long, three quarters of an inch in diameter, and nearly of an uniform thickness from the extremity to within two or three inches of the origin of the stems. At this place it is contorted, tuberculated, or gibbous, and of a brownish colour. The colour of the horizontal caudex is yellow-ochre without, and whitish internally; and the fibres which proceed from it, are of an ochroleucous hue. These are sometimes so large, that they may be considered rather as branches or forks of the main root. The plant is from two to three feet high, and bushy, several stems arising from the same root. In favourable situations I have seen it near four feet tall. The stems are about 3-8ths of an inch in diameter, simple, erect, cylindrical, pubescent, and of a green colour. The leaves are large, oblong-oval, acuminate, somewhat panduriform towards their base, where they become suddenly narrowed. They are mostly connate, until they approach the fourth pair from the top: these upper ones are more attenuated at their bases, and rather amplexicaule. The under surface of all the leaves is covered with a soft dense bluishwhite pubescence, conspicuously apparent on the middle rib and nerves. On their upper surface, though the pubescence cannot be observed readily by the naked eye, it is discernible by the glass, more sparse than below. The nerves are numerous, and commonly alternate, as respects their union with the costa. The two uppermost pairs of leaves are small and closely convoluted, while the plant is in flower. After the florescence is past, they are developed to the full size of the others, or become rather broader at their middle, and assume a brownish purple colour. I have sometimes observed the whole plant of this hue, though in general it is confined to the upper portion. The flowers are axillary, sessile, and arranged in triplets round the stem, appearing whorled. The corolla is reddish purple above, striated below with lake, blended into white, and every where covered with a dense pubescence. It is tubular, curved, and widest at the top, where it is divided into five auriculated segments or lobes; the latinise being cordate and closed on each other. The lower end of the tube terminates in an abrupt gibbosity, which is articulated with the germ. The stamens are five in number, inclosed within the corolla, and alternate with the lobes or latinise. The pistil is somewhat longer than the stamens, and appears conspicuously above the corolla. Sigma oblong. The calix is composed of five linear segments obscurely ciliated on their margins, of a dark purplish colour, and half an inch long. The germ to which they are articulated, is beneath; and garnished with a single green bract, longer and broader than the calix leaves, and proceeding from its base. The berries succeed to the flowers, generally in the number of six to each axil; sometimes there are but three, but occasionally nine, in luxuriant plants. They are ovate, of a dark purple colour, with three divisions, and contain three hard seeds. They ripen in September.

This plant is somewhat rare, though I have seen it on the rocky limestone hills a little beyond the Maryland line, on the York and Baltimore road, in great quantities. It is also very frequent in the hilly woods bordering the Conestogo Creek, near Lancaster in Pennsylvania; and remarkably abundant in a thicket about one mile from the town of Lancaster, on the seat of Charles Smith, Esq. In the vicinity of Philadelphia it is very rare. Indeed I have only found it in a wild state, on the Schuylkill, near Lemon-hill. It delights in rich limestone soil, on rocky or stony ground, preferring the shade; but is often found in different situations. Its range is, from the northernmost state of New-England to Carolina; and probably further south. Flowers in June.

Medical Properties.

Triosteum perfoliatum is a mild cathartic, and it is for this virtue that the plant is here noticed. I am aware that Shoepf speaks of it as an emetic only, and alludes to its use in intermittent fevers and pleurisy. One of the common vulgar names also, Bastard Ipecacuanha, indicates the well-known emetic power which it unquestionably possesses. But it is only in large doses that vomiting is produced. In the quantity of twenty or thirty grains, it is a good cathartic. It has been said on some occasions to operate as a diuretic; [Barton's "Collections."] but Professor Barton who observed this effect, justly remarks that this may have been only an accidental circumstance, rhubarb having been known by C. Piso, to produce the same effect. [Ibid.] The part of the plant used for medical purposes, is the cortex, or bark of the root. When the root is dry, it is brittle, and is pulverised easily. Perhaps it is not necessary to separate the bark from the ligneous part; for in all likelihood the whole root is endued with the same medicinal property. The Autumn is the proper time to collect the plant for use.

Oeconomical Use.

I learned from the late Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg, that the dried and toasted berries of this plant, were considered by some of the Ger mans of Lancaster county, as an excellent substitute for coffee, when prepared in the same way. Hence the name of wild coffee, by which he informed me it was sometimes known.

Table IV.

Fig. 1. Represents the upper portion of the plant of the natural size.
Fig. 2. A flower with the calix and bract.
Fig. 3. The corolla separated.
Fig. 4. The same opened, shewing the situation and insertion of the stamens and pistil.
Fig. 5. A ripe berry, with the crown formed by the persistent 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.