|MORE FLOWERING PLANTS OF THE METRO AREA
Bittersweet (Celastrus sp.)
American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) has been replaced in most
areas by the introduced Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculata).
The yellow or orange berries of Bittersweet split open to expose the red
seed. The red and yellow fruit of this vine are seen in woods and forest
edges long after the leaves have fallen. The fruit is eaten by some birds,
but does not appear to be sought after. The berries are said to be
poisonous to humans, causing diarrhea and vomiting.
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
The purple berries of the pokeweed are found in hedgerows and weedy areas in late
summer and into the winter.
While the young shoots can be boiled in two changes of water and eaten as a vegetable, I
do not recommend it. The uncooked plant is very poisonous, containing compounds called
phytolaccatoxin and phytolaccigenin. Pokeweed also contains mitogens - compounds that
interfere with cell division.
There have been many medicinal uses reported for this plant and for isolated chemical
components. A decoction of the root is applied externally as an anti-inflammatory. A protein
called pokeweed antiviral protein is said to have significant antiviral activity. The plant has
also been used in alternative cancer treatments. As far as I know, effectiveness of pokeweed
has not been verified and it is generally considered too toxic for medicinal use.
The berries were used by some American Indians and early settlers to make a red dye.
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
This is another escaped ornamental plant that has become invasive. The Japanese
Honeysuckle grows on fences, shrubs and trees and can overgrow the indigenous flora.
The sweet nectar is sometimes sucked from the base of the flower by children.
There is a long history of medicinal use of this plant in China. Flowers have been used to
treat colds and flu and may have antiviral activity. They may also lower cholesterol.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
The Bloodroot is an early spring wildflower of the forest floor. The name comes from the red
root, from which a red liquid is extracted. The root of this plant has been used to make a red
dye for dying clothes and for a red face paint once used by some native Americans. The root
is said to be caustic, and can "burn" skin. The root has been used medicinally for removing
skin growths and ringworm. A substance called sanguinarine is extracted from the root and
used in dental preparations to kill bacteria and cure gum disease.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Grows in shady woods. The green flower resembles a preacher in a pulpit, giving
this plant its common name.
The entire plant contains calcium oxalate, which causes intense burning if eaten.
The round tuber is said to be edible after thorough drying.
Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)
Found on the forest floor, this plant stays green through the
winter and the small red terminal berry can be found through the
winter. The berry is edible, but tasteless. The leaves and berries
have been used to make a tea that was used to treat
Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)
The edible, but slightly tart, red berries are often called red raspberries. The Wineberry
was introduced from Asia and has become established throughout our area. Often
considered an invasive pest. The native Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) is found in the
Appalachian mountains, in the western part of our Metropolitan area. The true Red
Raspberries lack the "hairy" stem of the Wineberry. Presumably the name came from the
use of these in the Old World to make a wine.
The berries are a little tart and seedy, but good to eat. As kids we collected these by the
bucketful and ate them with a little sugar sprinkled over them. A neighbor made Wineberry
pies every summer, which we all enjoyed.
Gardeners might prefer to plant some of the native red or black raspberries to avoid
spreading this invasive alien.
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
This is one of the first spring flowers. This plant grows in wet areas, often blooming before
the water has fully thawed. Heat generated by the plant may help thaw the ice, allowing the
flower to emerge through the ice. The name Skunk Cabbage comes from a foul odor that
comes from the leaves when they are bruised. The odor is reminiscent of decaying flesh
and may attract carrion eating insects to the flowers to spread the pollen from plant to plant.
This plant contains calcium oxalate, which causes intense burning if eaten. Leaves and
roots are said to be edible after thorough drying, but I would stay away from this one.
The leaves and dried root have historically been used medicinally for arthritis, asthma, and
migranes among other things.
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Chicory was introduced to this country, probably as an escaped garden plant. The young
leaves of this plant can be eaten as a salad green or can be boiled. The roots are roasted
and used as a coffee substitute or are added to coffee. The leaves and roots are quite bitter.
Chicory also has a long history of use in medicine. Chicory was listed by W. T. FERNIE, M.D.
under the herb name Succory.
Square-stemmed Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)
This plant blooms in late summer on stream banks, pond
sides and other sunny wet areas. The Monkey Flower is in
the Snapdragon family. One identifying feature is the square
stem. Most mints also have a square stem but lack the showy
flowers of the Monkey Flowers. Another species of Mimulus,
the Sharp-winged Monkey Flower (Mimulus alatus) is also
found in our area. The Sharp-winged Monkey Flower has
slight "wings" on the corners of the square stem and has
short stalks on the flowers.