Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wild Bergamot Bee-Balm

Wild Bergamot Bee-balm, Lyon Co, Ks.

Wild Bergamot Bee-Balm is a perennial and member of the mint family, growing 2-4 feet in height. Toothy leaves alternate on upright stems. Purple tubular flowers radiate like so many horns on a round head with purple leafy bracts.

The flowering head is dotted wity glands that secrete aromatic oils. The fragrance has a citrus smell similar to that of bergamot oranges. Leaves make an aromatic tea. Medicinal uses include relief from fever, sore throat, bronchitis, fungal infections, and hookworms.

Blooms in June and July.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed Asclepias tuberosa

Butterflies of all kind perch on top of the floral bouquet. Each individual floret has five petals and is shaped like a tulip. A vertical slit allows the butterflies foot to slip inside detaching pollen. Leaves are lance shaped and alternate along a hairy stem.

Although this is a Milkweed, it has no milky sap.

Medicinal Uses

[Warning, don't think about trying this yourself!]

The Butterfly Milkweed root has medicinal uses. Native American Plains tribes including the Omahas, Poncas, and Dakotas; and Menominis from Wisconsin all used the plant. The root was chewed to treat throat and lung ailments. The root could also be chewed and applied to cuts and sores. The root was dried and pulverized for later use. European Americans recognized the plant's medicinal properties, nicknaming it Pleurisy Root.

The root also acts as an emetic. It has been used to treat colic, act as a contraceptive, and treat diarrhea.

The U.S. Pharmacopoeia listed the plant from 1820 to 1905 and the National Formulary from 1916 to 1936. The active compounds in milkweeds include cardiac glycosides which are poisonous to humans and cattle.  Monarch butterfly caterpillars utilize these chemicals for their own protection.

Images were taken at Lake El Dorado June 22, 2013.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sulphur Cinquefoil

Sulpher Cinquefoil, Wichita near the airport,
on abandoned railroad track, June 2013

Sulfur cinquefoil, Potentilla recta, Rose family (Rosaceae)

This Kansas wildflower has pale to bright yellow (sulfur-colored) flowers with 5 heart-shaped petals. There can be one to several hairy stems per plant and numerous leaves on the stems, 5 to 7 leaflets with distinctly toothed edges. Sulfur cinquefoil (five petal) is a perennial. It can spreads by seed and also reproduces through new shoots emerging from its woody root crown. Stems sprouting from the central woody crown will, over time, separate into individual plants. Plants can live up to 20 years. Blooms in may and June.

Wildlife and livestock will graze the plant, but it is not preferred due to its tannin content, an astringent. Native Americans applied the crushed leaves and stems of sulphur cinquefoil to open wounds and sores.

Sulpher Cinquefoil, flower

Habitat includes sunny pastures and prairie fields, vacant lots, gravelly areas along railroads and dirt roads. This plant prefers disturbed ground with alkaline soil.