Caulophyllum thalictroides

Alexis wrote today’s entry:

Today’s photo was taken by Robert Klips (Orthotrichum@Flickr) in Delaware County, Ohio. Thank you, Robert! A member of Berberidaceae, the green-yellow flowers of Caulophyllum thalictroides can be seen in bloom in the wild in April and May.

Caulophyllum thalictroides is more commonly known as blue cohosh, papoose-root, or squawroot. This species is a forb/herb native to eastern North America, growing in forests with moist rich soils and near streams. Plants eventually produce dark blue berries.

Historically, Caulophyllum thalictroides has been used medicinally, including use as an antispasmodic and diuretic. It is also an emmenagogue, promoting blood flow to the uterus and pelvic area. In fact, Native American peoples traditionally made a tea made from its roots to induce childbirth through uterine contractions and to relieve menstrual cramps. Additionally, many ailments such as rheumatism, epilepsy, bronchitis, and hysteria have also been treated with Caulophyllum thalictroides in the past. Roasting then boiling its seeds in water can produce a drink similar to coffee (Grieve’s A Modern Herbal (1971). However, the species contains cell-damaging chemicals and can irritate the skin and mucous membranes.

Caulophyllum thalictroides

5 responses to “Caulophyllum thalictroides”

  1. Raakel

    Curiously, this plant was the most requested plant by botanical gardens around the world for the Seed Exchange program that I worked on while a student at the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture. I was always surprised by that because it is not particularly ornamental.

  2. Carolyn Liesy

    I love your new website.

  3. Douglas Justice

    I love the crazy flower structure of herbaceous berberidads. Here, the six petal-like organs visible in the image are actually the inner sepals (the outer three or four sepals are smaller and were probably shed by the time this picture was taken). The true petals are fan-shaped and hooded, the pocket in upper surface modified to produce nectar. The petals are between the inner sepals and the stamens.
    Even more unusual are the “fruits.” As is noted in the “dark blue berries” link above, the “berries” are actually seeds. According to William Stearn in Epimedium and Other Herbaceous Berberidaceae (Timber Press, 2002), “the seeds burst through the ovary wall early and ripen naked.” Note in the link photo that it’s actually a pair of ovules sitting atop their funiculi that eventually turn into these blue seeds. You can see an earlier view of the seeds breaking out here (same link, different page). Very cool plant.

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    i wonder how many of the early settlers of this
    country where given blue cohosh not knowing the
    the effects of takeing blue cohash would have
    an interesting plant to read about thank you
    mr justice its good to have you open our eyes
    so we may see in a deeper way

  5. Kaveh

    Cool info about the seeds Douglas. I think they are really ornamental too. I know when I was looking for this plant it is because I saw the fruit at a visit to a botanical garden. I actually made a print of a picture I took of them and it is hanging in my room at my dad’s place.
    I’m actually really surprised that the picture of the day is of the flowers and not the fruit.

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