Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This native perennial plant is up to 5' tall and unbranched, except near the inflorescence. The central stem is round and smooth. Scattered along this stem are 3-7 whorled leaves. These leaves are up to 6" long and 1½" across with serrated margins. They are ovate to narrowly ovate, and are either sessile or have short petioles. At the apex of the plant are several slender spikes of white flowers up to 8" long, resembling a candelabra. The narrow tubular flowers are about ¼" long, from which 2 yellow or brown stamens are exerted. These flowers are crowded together all around each spike, blooming from the bottom up. They have no scent.  The blooming period usually occurs from early to mid-summer, and lasts about a month. The tiny seeds can be carried several feet away from the mother plant by the wind. The root system consists of a central taproot and some rhizomes, which enable vegetative reproduction.
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Comments

While in bloom, this plant has an elegant appearance, although the pretty white flowers rapidly turn brown. Its common name refers to the medicinal usage of the bitter root, which has purgative properties. The surname 'Culver' probably refers to a pioneer physician who advocated the use of this plant for the treatment of various ailments. Return
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Veronicastrum virginicum (L.) Farw.:
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Global Range: South-eastern Manitoba and south-western Ontario to Maine, south to Florida and Texas (Scoggan 1978-9, Kartesz 1999). Species is recorded in the following provinces and states: Manitoba, Ontario, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

More detailed range information was available for the following provinces and states.

Manitoba: occurs in the South-Eastern Lake Terrace region (Glacial lake Agassiz Beaches, between the Red River Valley and the Precambrian Shield) from the Manitoba-Minnesota border north to the Kleefeld area (<1% of the area of the province) (E. Punter pers. comm.).

Ontario: native only in southwestern Ontario (Essex, Kent, and Lambton counties) (M. Oldham pers. comm.).

Delaware: occurs in the piedmont and coastal plain (B. McAvoy pers. comm.).

Florida: occurs in the most north-western county in the state (Wunderlin et al. 1995).

Georgia: reported in 2 counties in northern part of the state (USDA, NRCS 1999).

Iowa: infrequent in north-west of state, common elsewhere (J. Peason pers. comm.).

Kansas: largely restricted to the eastern 1/5 of Kansas (eastern 3 tiers of counties) (C. Freeman pers. comm.).

Kentucky: reported in 33 counties scattered throughout the state (USDA, NRCS 1999).

Indiana: occurs in remnants mostly in the northern half of the state but also occurs in the far southern part of the state (Indiana Natural Heritage Data Center).

Massachusetts: occurs in 4 counties in western half of the state (USDA, NRCS 1999).

Maine: apparently introduced to Maine (Haines and Vining 1998), known to occur only in York county (Maine Natural Areas Program).

Michigan: common in southern Lower Michigan (Voss 1985, Voss 1996, Michigan Natural Features Inventory).

Minnesota: occurs in half the state (Minnesota Natural Heritage Program).

Missouri: occurs statewide (Steyermark 1963, M. McHale pers. comm., T. Smith pers. comm.).

North Carolina: recorded in 10 counties in the mountains and piedmont (Radford et al. 1968, J. Amoroso, pers. comm)

Ohio: occurs throughout Ohio, more frequent in the eastern half of the state (A. Cusick pers. comm.).

South Carolina: reported in two counties in the north-west corner and north-central portions of the state (Boyle et al. n.d.).

South Dakota: restricted to southeastern part of state, documented in three counties: Lincoln, Minnehaha, and Moody. Historically it probably occurred in eight counties (D. Ode pers. comm.).

Tennessee: known to occur in 22 counties in Tennessee (APSU Center for Field Biology and University of Tennessee Herbarium 1999).

Virginia: reported in 28 counties mostly in western 2/3 of the state (USDA, NRCS 1999).

Vermont: one current site in the town of Essex, Cittenden County. One historical record last observed in a vacant lot in the City of Rutland. These records may both be garden escapes (R. Popp pers. comm.).

West Virginia: occurs in 18 counties throughout the state (USDA, NRCS 1999).

Wisconsin: occurs in all but the northern-most tier of counties in Wisconsin (K. Westad pers. comm.).

Confirmation was received that the species does not occur in Alberta (Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre), British Columbia (British Columbia Conservation Data Centre), Quebec (Quebec Service de la Conservation des Especes Menacees), Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre), Alaska (Alaska Natural Heritage Program), Arizona (Arizona Natural Heritage Program), California (California Natural Diversity Database), Montana (Montana Natural Heritage Program), Nevada (Nevada Natural Heritage Program), New Mexico (New Mexico Natural Heritage Program), Utah (Welsh et al. 1993, Utah Natural Heritage Program), Washington (Washington Natural Heritage Program), and Wyoming (Wyoming Natural Diversity Database).

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Veronicastrum virginicum occurs in a variety of habitats throughout its range. It is found in moist tallgrass prairie and prairie remnants, moist woods, woodland borders, thickets, fields and meadows, stream banks and terraces (Radford et al. 1968, J. Amoroso pers. comm., Maine Natural Areas Program, C. Freeman pers. comm., Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory, B. McAvoy pers. comm., Iowa Department of Natural Resources). It also occurs in secondary habitat on roadsides, road allowances, and railway right-of-ways (A. Cusick pers. comm., Michigan Natural Features Inventory, E. Punter pers. comm., M. Oldham pers. comm., T. Smith pers. comm., K. Westad pers. comm.).

In the north-westernmost part of its range, it occurs in the ecotone between tall grass plant communities and adjoining open to closed deciduous forest, on strongly calcareous, well to imperfectly drained, Dark Grey Chernozemic sandy loam soils (E. Punter pers. comm.). It is found in open oak woodlands in North Dakota (D. Ode pers. comm.), in savanna in Missouri and Wisconsin (M. McHale pers. comm., T. Smith pers. comm., K. Westad pers. comm.), and occasionally in bottomland forest in Missouri (M. McHale, pers.comm.). In North Carolina it is known to occur in bogs, but is primarily found in the mountains (Radford et al. 1968, J. Amoroso pers. comm.). In Wisconsin, it is additionally reported to be found in sand dunes and sedge meadow (K. Westad pers. comm.).

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Culver's Root in Illinois

Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver's Root)
(Bees collect pollen or suck nectar; flies feed on pollen or suck nectar; other insects suck nectar; some observations are from Clinebell and Petersen as indicated below, otherwise they are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn fq (Rb, Cl); Apidae (Bombini): Bombus bimaculatus (Cl), Bombus fervidus (Pt), Bombus griseocallis fq (Cl), Bombus impatiens fq (Cl), Bombus pensylvanica sn, Bombus vagans sn (Rb, Pt); Anthophoridae (Anthophorinae): Anthophora terminalis (Cl); Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla dupla sn cp (Rb, Cl); Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn fq; Anthophoridae (Xylocopini): Xylocopa virginica (Cl); Megachilidae (Coelioxini): Coelioxys octodentata sn fq; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile exilis (Cl); Megachilidae (Osmiini): Hoplitis cylindricus sn cp, Hoplitis pilosifrons sn; Megachilidae (Trypetini): Heriades leavitti cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon texanus texanus sn, Agapostemon virescens sn, Augochlorella striata (Pt), Augochloropsis metallica metallica sn, Halictus confusus sn (Rb, Pt), Halictus ligatus sn (Rb, Pt), Halictus rubicunda fq (Cl), Lasioglossum sp. (Cl), Lasioglossum cattellae (Cl), Lasioglossum coriaceus cp, Lasioglossum imitatus cp fq (Rb, Cl), Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn, Lasioglossum rohweri (Cl), Lasioglossum versatus sn cp fq; Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus affinis sn, Hylaeus mesillae sn, Hylaeus modestus modestus (Cl)

Wasps
Sphecidae (Bembicinae): Stictia carolina; Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Ammophila nigricans, Ammophila procera, Sphex ichneumonea

Flies
Syrphidae: Eristalinus aeneus sn fp, Eristalis tenax sn fp, Eristalis transversus fp np, Syritta pipiens sn, Toxomerus marginatus fp np; Bombyliidae: Exoprosopa fasciata sn; Conopidae: Physocephala sp. (Cl), Thecophora occidensis sn; Tachinidae: Archytas analis sn

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Vanessa virginiensis; Lycaenidae: Everes comyntas, Lycaena hyllus; Pieridae: Pieris rapae

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Epargyreus clarus (Cl)

Moths
Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis; Pyralidae: Nomophila nearctica

Plant Bugs
Lygaeidae: Lygaeus turcicus

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Faunal Associations

The most common visitors to the flowers are long-tongued and short-tongued bees, which collect pollen or suck nectar. This includes honeybees, bumblebees, Mason bees, Green Metallic bees, Masked bees, and others. Other kinds of insect visitors include Sphecid wasps, butterflies, moths, and Syrphid flies. The latter include species that feed on pollen only and are non-pollinating. Culver's Root doesn't appear to be bothered by leaf-chewing insects or mammalian herbivores to the same extent as other plants. The seeds are too tiny to be of much interest to birds. Photographic Location
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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / parasite
Sphaerotheca fuliginea parasitises live Veronicastrum virginicum

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: 1000's. Manitoba: 12 (E. Punter pers. comm.); Ontario: ~ 15 (M. Oldham pers. comm.); Delaware: 2 (B. McAvoy pers. comm.); Florida: at least 1* (Wunderlin et al. 1995); Georgia: at least 2* (USDA, NRCS 1999); Kansas: 100's (C. Freeman pers. comm.); Kentucky: at least 33* (USDA, NRCS 1999); Missouri: 1000's (T. Smith pers. comm.); Ohio: probably 1000's (A. Cusick pers. comm.); South Dakota: 3+ (D. Ode pers. comm.); Tennessee: at least 22* (APSU Center for Field Biology and University of Tennessee Herbarium 1999); Virginia: at least 28* (USDA, NRCS 1999); Vermont: 1? (R. Popp pers. comm.); Washington: at least 18* (USDA, NRCS 1999); Wisconsin: 1000's? (K. Westad pers. comm.). * signifies a minimum number of populations based on the number of counties for which the species is recorded according to state distribution maps.

It is difficult to distinguish between native and introduced occurrences (W. Moorhead pers. comm.).

Occurences in or near native prairie habitat and away from houses, within its known geographic range, can likely be considered native (B. Ford pers. comm.).

Delaware: there are few populations due to loss of habitat (B. McAvoy pers. comm.).

Louisiana: there are two historic records of this species. It is not known whether these populations have become extirpated (D. Brunet pers. comm.).

North Carolina: this species is on the Natural Heritage Program Watch list because it is rare and poorly known (J. Amoroso pers. comm.).

South Dakota: Ninety percent of its habitat has been destroyed. There may be a few more populations, but there has not been any systematic survey for this species. The number of sites would certainly not total more than 20 (D. Ode pers. comm.).

Vermont: The only extant population was first observed in 1962. In 1982 there were about 20 individuals. In 1991 there were 7 clumps consisting of about 20 stems. In 1999 no plants were observed.

Species is ranked S1 in Manitoba because there are few occurrences known in a small area of the province. Species is being considered for the Endangered Species List in Manitoba (J. Greenall pers. comm.).

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General Ecology

Appears to be pollinated by several bee species (E. Punter pers. comm.).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Veronicastrum virginicum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: Species is common, abundant, and widespread in parts of its range in the U.S. In other parts of its range, however, populations are very low. Activities such as habitat conversion to agricultural use, clearing of wooded areas, and drainage/alteration of wet or moist prairies threaten its long term survival, and thus may result in the extirpation of native plants of this species in these areas. In addition, the species is reported to be declining even in states in its core range.

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Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%

Comments: The number of populations of this species have decreased since settlement as a result of the conversion of much of the tallgrass prairie habitat to agricultural use, the clearing of woodlands, urban development, and the drainage/alteration of wet or moist prairie in agricultural areas. These activities continue to threaten the long term viability of populations in parts of its range where it is considered rare.

The current trend is unknown in Ontario but undoubtedly declining since presettlement times due to extensive loss of prairie habitat (M. Oldham pers. comm.).

The species is reported to be declining in Manitoba (E. Punter pers. comm.), Connecticut (W. Moorhead pers. comm.), Delaware (B. McAvoy pers. comm.), Kansas (C. Freeman pers. comm.), New Jersey (New Jersey Natural Heritage Program), Ohio (A. Cusick pers. comm.), Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory), Vermont (R. Popp pers. comm.), and Wisconsin (K. Westad pers. comm.).

In Manitoba, populations have decreased since presettlement time due to habitat destruction as a result of agricultural practices. In 1998, the number of stems observed were less than in 1997, possibly due to dry conditions. Populations documented by early herbarium records are possibly extirpated. Two significant populations (west of Tolstoi) were eliminated in 1998 when their habitat (an abandoned rail bed) was leveled and incorporated into the adjoining fields (E. Punter pers. comm.).

In Kansas, populations are probably declining due to continued destruction of habitat. Unfortunately, we cannot be certain since we don't have good baseline census data and we don't know anything about establishment of new populations (C. Freeman pers. comm.).

In Vermont, the only known population may now be gone (R. Popp pers. comm.).

In South Dakota, 90 percent of its habitat has been destroyed. There may be a few more populations, but there has not been any systematic survey for this species. The number of sites would certainly not total more than 20 (D. Ode pers. comm.).

In Delaware, there are few populations due to loss of habitat (B. McAvoy pers. comm.).

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Threats

Comments: There is both direct and indirect evidence of wild-collection of this species for the plant trade, from Manitoba, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

Manitoba: direct evidence of collecting from the wild observed. Seed or plants must have been taken from the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, since that was the only known population at the time. Two native plant nurseries in Manitoba sell V. virginicum plants which were derived from seed. Probably no rhizomes are collected, since they appear to have dubious medicinal qualities. There is no evidence that this plant is collected from the wild for medicinal purposes. There is no regulation or licensing for wild plant collecting in Manitoba, so no statistics are available (E. Punter pers. comm.)

Missouri: indirect evidence of collecting from the wild. There is a market for the roots but whether it is collected from the wild is unknown. If it is being collected it is not affecting wild populations to any great degree (T. Smith pers. comm.).

Wisconsin: indirect evidence of collecting from the wild (K. Westad pers. comm.).

The plant receives minor but continual usage for medicinal purposes, and it is estimated that 1000-2000 lb/yr were in U.S. trade in the early 1990s (M. McGuffin pers. comm.). The root is used, so harvest is deadly to the plant.

Seed and potted plants of the native form of this species (supposedly) is sold for prairie restoration or native prairie gardening. Plant material is known to have been collected from the wild for this purpose in Manitoba, but the origin of this material in other areas is unknown.

Across its range, Veronicastrum virginicum is reported to be threatened by the following activities:

Conversion of prairie habitat to agricultural use and urban development (A. Cusick pers. comm., B. McAvoy pers. comm., M. Oldham pers. comm.).

Agricultural activities, i.e., pesticide application (E. Punter pers. comm.).

Alteration of hydrology in wet or moist prairie (M. McHale pers. comm.).

Clearing of woodlots (E. Punter pers. comm.).

Road maintenance activities including grading, herbiciding (E. Punter pers. comm.).

Grazing by cattle and white-tail deer (E. Punter pers. comm.).

Removal of shrubs along fence lines and shelterbelts (E. Punter pers. comm.).

Impact of cultivars on native genetic integrity (E. Punter pers. comm.).

Effect of herbicides/insecticides on pollinators (E. Punter pers. comm.).

Low seed production (Lakela 1960, E. Punter pers. comm.).

Loss of open habitat to invasive weeds and pasture grasses (D. Ode, pers.com.), intensive management, and/or reforestation (W. Moorhead pers. comm.).

Encroachment of woody vegetation due to suppression of fires (C. Freeman pers. comm., M. McHale pers. comm.).

Conversion of bogs to wet meadows (J. Amoroso pers. comm.)

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Management

Biological Research Needs: Research is needed in the following areas: habitat parameters, seed production, effect of precipitation on plant size and number of flowering stems per clone. phenology, and effect of burning and mowing on growth (number of vegetative and flowering stems per clone) (E. Punter pers. comm.).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG, LANDSCAPING

Production Methods: Cultivated, Wild-harvested

Comments: Roots are apparently short-lived (3 years), and are harvested in the second year (Kindscher 1992). The roots and rhizomes of V. virginicum are purported to have mild cathartic cholagogue diaphortic and spasmolytic therapeutic properties which may be used to treat chronic constipation associated with hepatic dysfunction, cholecystitis, and icterus (Healthlink Online Resources). Traditionally, the rhizomes and roots were prepared and used: by the Cherokee as an analgesic, purgative, diaphoretic, and to treat colic and "inactive liver"; by the Chippewa as cathartic to "cleanse the blood"; by the Iroquois for chills, fever, diarrhea, rheumatism, as cough medicine, as physic or for a bad heart, and as a general panacea for all ailments and fevers; by the Menominee as a ceremonial medicine, cathartic and emetic, physic and mild laxative; by the Meskwaki to treat convulsions and constipation, dissolve kidney stones, and for women in labor (Moerman).

This species is sold commercially in Iowa for use in prairie restoration (Iowa Department of Natural Resources).

Veronicastrum virginicum is widely grown as an ornamental, particularly in the U.S. Seed and potted plants of cultivars of unknown stock are available in nurseries. Plant material for the cultivated varieties was likely taken to Europe where cultivars were developed (C. Davidson pers. comm.).

Prices for this species were found as follows:

Winnipeg, Manitoba: $4-10 Canadian / pot

Missouri: $8 /lb. dry root

Wisconsin: $50-100 /oz. seed

Wisconsin: $4 / 3" pot

Missouri: $40 / oz. seed

Maryland: $2-10 / pot

Texas: $3.50 / package seed (20+ seeds)

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Cultivation

The preference is full or partial sun, and moist to average conditions. Growth is best in rich loamy soil, although some sand or clay is tolerated. The leaves may turn yellowish green in bright sunlight or during a drought, otherwise they normally appear healthy and are not often bothered by disease. This plant has a tendency to flop over on slopes. Range & Habitat
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Wikipedia

Veronicastrum virginicum

Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver's root, Culver's-root, Culverpsyic, Culver's physic,Bowman's root, blackroot; syn. Leptandra virginica (L.) Nutt., Veronica virginica L.[1][2]) is a wildflower native to the United States.

Veronicastrum virginicum is an erect perennial herb that grows 80–200 cm in height. The leaves are serrated and arranged in whorls of 3-7 around the stem. The inflorescence is erect with slender and spike-like racemes. The stamens are crowded and protrude in a brush-like fashion perpendicular to the raceme . The corollas are white and are roughly 2 mm. in length. These plants flower from mid-summer to early fall.[3]

Culver's Root is frequently found in wet to wet-mesic prairies and sometimes moist upland sites.[3]

Uses[edit]

Culver's Root is cultivated as a garden flower in the Eastern United States.[2]

Culver's Root has been used medicinally for liver disorders and constipation. It is a long-time American doctors' remedy for liver congestion with accompanying constipation. It is sometimes considered when compounding a formula for the liver, gallbladder, to treat constipation, colitis, gallstones and hepatitis.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Veronicastrum virginicum". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  2. ^ a b Clausen, Ruth Rogers and Nicholas H. Ekstrom, Perenials for American Gardens,New York: Random House, 1989
  3. ^ a b Gleason, Henry and Arthur Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. D. Van Nostrand Company, New York, New York. 910 pp.
  4. ^ Natural Cures - North America

References[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Widespread, generally accepted species; recognized by Kartesz (1994 checklist and 1999 floristic synthesis).

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