Saturday, August 02, 2014

Prairie summer: Culver's Root

It doesn't take much to make me happy --- and spotting Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) in full bloom early this week on the county line prairie south of Derby did just that. 

Although Culver's Root is native to the entire tallgrass region and widely distrubted, it is seldom seen. It is not partial to disturbed ground, so finding it in its natural setting suggests an undisturbed prairie or prairie remnant. (Culver's Root is cultivated as a garden flower in some parts of the United States, however, so is not rare or endangered in general.)

I wish I'd been able to get to the prairie a little earlier and see Culver's Root in bud stage, but was happy to settle for full bloom. Unlike its showy and more prolific neighbor, Blazing Star, Culver's Root blooms from the bottom of each spike upward --- and here at least is in full bloom.

The plant's bitter root (I'm told it's bitter; have no plan to sample) has a long history in folk medicine, commencing with Native Americans, because of its purgative properties. It's thought that the "Culver's Root" designation can be traced to a pioneer physician (or patent medicine quack) who promoted its use.

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