Saturday, August 17, 2013

Leavenworth Eryngo

There are almost 250 species of the plant genus Eryngium throughout the world. This one, Leavenworth Eryngo, is named for Melines Conkling Leavenworth (1796-1862), an army surgeon, explorer, and botanist who discovered the plant on his botanical explorations in Indian territory.

Leavenworth Eryngo, at Lake El Dorado, Butler County, Kansas 2013

In 1817, Dr. Leavenworth graduated Yale Medical School. For a time, he was head of the Botanical Garden attached Yale. Following his army commission in 1833, he began his botanical explorations, which were conducted in the south and in Indian territory.

Though the flower looks like a thistle with its spikey leaves, actually, it is a member of the parsley and carrot family. As an herb, it has certain medicinal properties. (See WebMd.)

Eryngo (Eryngium, the genus name) refers to the pointed leaves and the dense clusters of flowers on the bracted flowering head.

The term 'Eryngo' may come from the Greek  erugarein, ‘to cure belching'. Greek physician Dioscorides, who wrote De Materia Medica, recommended the root to ease gas. Source, Eat the Weeds.

Leavenworth Eryngo,
Lake El Dorado, Butler County, Kansas
 August 2013

This annual plant grows to 3 feet, towering above the native prairie short grass. A single erect stem ends in a single flowering head, but multiple branches extend laterally on which are additional flowers. It is found on dry rocky prairies. grasslands, and roadside fields, but can be observed near rocky lakes as this one was at Lake Eldorado in Butler County.

Leavenworth Eryngo, stem with flowering heads

The distinctive flowering head resembles a pineapple. There are spiked leaves below the florets and above. The flower turns from green to white and purple as it matures.

Flowering head of Leavenworth Eryngo,
Lake El Dorado, Butler County, Kansas
Flowering bracted head of Leavenworth Eryngo

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