AMERICAN WHITE HELLEBORE INDIAN POKE ITCHWEED





(Veratrum viride) Bunch-flower family



Flowers - Dingy, pale yellowish or whitish green, growing greener

with age, 1 in. or less across, very numerous, in

stiff-branching, spike-like, dense-flowered panicles. Perianth of

6 oblong segments; 6 short curved stamens; 3 styles. Stem: Stout,

leafy, 2 to 8 ft. tall. Leaves: Plaited, lower ones broadly oval,

pointed, 6 to 12 in. long; parallel ribbed, sheathing the stem

where they clasp it; upper leaves gradually narrowing; those

among flowers small.

Preferred Habitat - Swamps, wet woods, low meadows.

Flowering Season - May-July.

Distribution - British Possessions from ocean to ocean; southward

in the United States to Georgia, Tennessee, and Minnesota.



"Borage and hellebore fill two scenes -

Sovereign plants to purge the veins

Of melancholy, and cheer the heart

Of those black fumes which make it smart."



Such are the antidotes for madness prescribed by Burton in his

"Anatomie of Melancholy." But like most medicines, so the

homeopaths have taught us, the plant that heals may also poison;

and the coarse, thick rootstock of this hellebore sometimes does

deadly work. The shining plaited leaves, put forth so early in

the spring they are especially tempting to grazing cattle on that

account, are too well known by most animals, however, to be

touched by them - precisely the end desired, of course, by the

hellebore, nightshade, aconite, cyclamen, Jamestown weed, and a

host of others that resort, for protection, to the low trick of

mixing poisonous chemicals with their cellular juices. Pliny told

how the horses, oxen, and swine of his day were killed by eating

the foliage of the black hellebore. Flies, which visit the dirty,

yellowish-green flowers in abundance, must cross-fertilize them,

as the anthers mature before the stigmas are ready to receive

pollen. Apparently the visitors suffer no ill effects from the

nectar. We nave just seen how the green arrow-arum bores a hole

in the mud and plants its own seeds in autumn. The hellebore uses

its auger in the spring, when we find the stout, shining, solid

tool above ground with the early skunk-cabbage.





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