Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This perennial wildflower is 1-3' tall and unbranched. The erect central stem is light green to pale purple, terete, glabrous, and often glaucous. A non-flowering plant has a single compound leaf at the apex of this stem, while a flowering plant has two compound leaves. The lower compound leaf of a flowering plant is located toward the middle of the central stem, where it is divided into a whorl of 3 compound leaflets. Each compound leaflet is ternately divided into 9 simple subleaflets that are arranged in groups of 3 (2 lateral groups and a terminal group). Less often, a compound leaflet may be divided into 15 simple subleaflets that consist of 2 additional lateral groups. The basal stalks (petiolules) of the compound leaflets are long and ascending; they are light green and glabrous. The  subleaflets are 1-3" long and ¾-2" across (or occasionally wider); they are broadly ovate-oblong to obovate-oblong in shape and smooth along their margins, terminating in 2-5 cleft lobes with blunt tips. The upper surface of the subleaflets is glabrous and either gray-green, yellowish green, or medium green, while the lower surface is pale green and glabrous. The slender basal stalklets of the subleaflets are light green and glabrous. The upper compound leaf of a flowering plant is located under the inflorescence. This compound leaf resembles the lower compound leaf, except its 3 compound leaflets are smaller in size because they have only 3 subleaflets each. On a flowering plant, the central stem terminates in a floral panicle about 1-3" long that is rounded or elongated; each panicle usually has 5-30 flowers (rarely more). Individual flowers are about 1/3" across, consisting of 6 petaloid sepals, insignificant petals, 6 stamens, and an ovoid ovary with a beak-like style. Depending on the local ecotype, the oblanceolate sepals are greenish yellow, greenish brown, or greenish purple. Underneath each flower, there are 3-4 green bractlets that resemble sepals. The branching stalks of the panicle are light green, glabrous, and ascending. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring before the leaves have fully developed. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by berry-like seeds that are about 1/3" across, globoid in shape, glabrous, and glaucous. These seeds are initially green, but they later become bright blue at maturity during the summer. The seed coat is fleshy and contains carbohydrates. The root system is rhizomatous and fibrous.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Blue Cohosh occurs occasionally in central Illinois, northern Illinois, and the Shawnee Hills of southern Illinois. In other areas of southern Illinois, this wildflower is uncommon or absent. Habitats include rich mesic woodlands, bluffs, and wooded slopes of large ravines. This relatively conservative wildflower can be found in woodlands dominated by either oaks or maples where the native ground flora is still intact.
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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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Global Range: Eastern North America, from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and southernmost Quebec (Labrecque pers. comm.) west to southeastern Manitoba (Punter pers. comm.) and eastern South Dakota (Ode pers. comm.); south to Oklahoma, Arkansas (USDA-NRCS 1999), northern Alabama (Schotz pers. comm.); east to the mountains of the Carolinas (Schafale pers. comm., Pittman pers. comm.). Primarily in the ridge and valley and Blue Ridge sections of the mid-Atlantic states (Frye pers. comm., Schafale pers. comm., Pittman pers. comm.), not found in piedmont or coastal plain.

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Man., N.B., Ont., Que.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Mo., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Pa., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Stems 2-9 dm. Leaves: 1st leaf (3-)4-ternate; 2d leaf (2-)3-ternate; leaflets 3-8 × 2-10 cm. Inflorescences with 5-70 flowers. Flowers: bracteoles 1-3 mm; sepals yellow, purple, green, 3-6 2-3 mm, apically revolute; petals 1-2.5 mm; stamen filaments 0.5-1.5 mm; pistil 1-3 mm; style 0.25-1 mm. 2 n = 16.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Leontice thalictroides Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 312. 1753
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Blue Cohosh occurs occasionally in central Illinois, northern Illinois, and the Shawnee Hills of southern Illinois. In other areas of southern Illinois, this wildflower is uncommon or absent. Habitats include rich mesic woodlands, bluffs, and wooded slopes of large ravines. This relatively conservative wildflower can be found in woodlands dominated by either oaks or maples where the native ground flora is still intact.
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Comments: Found in variable habitat conditions, most frequently in rich, calcareous forests and woodlands with deciduous mixed oak-hickory to birch-beech-basswood (Enser pers. comm., Homoya pers. comm., Punter pers. comm., Schotz pers. comm.). Also frequent in cove forests and rich northern-hardwoods, occasionally in circumneutral to basic montane oak-hickory forests, rarely along ridgetops, infrequent in clearings within acid cove forests (Schafale pers. comm., Kauffman pers. comm., Pittillo pers. comm.). In Kansas, it is associated with steep bluffs along the Missouri River (Freeman pers. comm.). In the Midwest it is associated with upland woods and woodlands with maple/basswood and occasionally with mixed oak woodlands (Ode pers. comm., Pearson pers. comm.).

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Mesophytic forests; 0-1200m.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

Both pollen and nectar are available as floral rewards to insect visitors. These visitors include miscellaneous flies (Syrphid, Tachinid, Muscid, etc.), parasitoid wasps (Braconid, Ichneumonid, etc.), small Halictid bees (Lasioglossum spp., etc.), and bumblebees (Robertson, 1929; Hannan & Prucher, 1996). Apparently, very few insects feed destructively on the foliage and other parts of Blue Cohosh. Caterpillars of the moth Clepsis melaleucana (Black-Patched Clepsis) and the plant bug Metriorrhynchomiris dislocatus have been observed to feed on this plant (Covell, 1984/2005; Knight, 1941). Both of these insects are polyphagous. Among vertebrate animals, both the White-Footed Mouse and Woodland Deer Mouse feed on the berry-like seeds of Blue Cohosh (Hamilton, 1941). However, because of the bright blue coloration of the fleshy seed coats and their carbohydrates, woodland birds are probably the primary dispersal agents of the seeds, which are known to be toxic to humans. Because the bitter-tasting foliage of this wildflower contains toxic glycosides and alkaloids, it is rarely eaten by White-Tailed Deer and other mammalian herbivores.
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Blue Cohosh in Illinois

Caulophyllum thalictroides (Blue Cohosh)
(Short-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen, other insects suck nectar; some observations are from Hannan & Prucher as indicated below, otherwise they are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus bimaculatus sn, Bombus griseocallis sn, Bombus impatiens sn

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlora purus sn, Augochlorella striata sn, Augochloropsis metallica metallica sn, Halictus rubicunda sn, Lasioglossum sp. (HP), Lasioglossum coriaceus sn, Lasioglossum imitatus sn cp, Lasioglossum macoupinensis sn, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp

Wasps
Braconidae: Bracon mellitor sn, Bracon pygmaeus sn, Microgaster gelechiae sn fq, Opius provancheri sn; Scelionidae: Prosacantha illinoensis (Ashmead, MS) sn np; Ichneumonidae: Unidentified species (HP)

Flies
Mycetophilidae: Dynastoma coquilletti sn np; Syrphidae: Cheilosia hoodiana sn, Helophilus fasciatus (HP), Platycheirus obscurus sn, Rhingia nasica sn, Syrphus sp. (HP); Empididae: Rhamphomyia piligeronis sn; Muscidae: Morellia micans sn, Potamia sp. (HP); Anthomyiidae: Emmesomyia socialis sn; Calliphoridae: Pollenia rudis (HP); Chloropidae: Thaumatomyia glabra sn; Fanniidae: Fannia sp. (HP); Tachinidae: Epalpus signifer (HP), Gonia frontosa (HP), Leschenaultia sp. (HP)

Beetles
Pyrochroidae: Pedilus terminalis sn; Curculionidae: Idiostethus subcalvus sn; Mordellidae: Mordellistena scapularis sn np

Plant Bugs
Nabidae: Nabis roseipennis (HP)

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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: Several hundred to thousands of populations exist rangewide. Iowa: dozens to hundreds; Kansas: 3; Maryland: hundreds; North Carolina: >1000 (Kauffman pers. comm.); Nebraska: 3 to 20; Rhode Island: 2; South Carolina: 12; South Dakota: 16; Tennessee: 43+; Vermont: thousands; Manitoba: 7 to 15; Quebec: >100 (Brumback and Mehrhoff 1996, APSU 1999).

Extensive in the southern Appalachian Mountain region, perhaps over 1000 populations in North Carolina mountains alone (Kauffman pers. comm.). Not all documented populations range-wide may be extant, which really would require updated surveys throughout the species' range (Punter pers. comm.).

Since this is such a common species throughout much of its range, these numbers can only be estimates. Additional information on species distribution and the number of populations can be gleaned from county occurrence dot maps (USDA-NRCS 1999).

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General Ecology

Transplanted individuals are reported to survive for a few decades (Pittillo pers. comm.).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering late spring.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Caulophyllum thalictroides

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 7
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: This species is has a very broad range and is frequently encountered in a wide variety of wooded habitats across its range. Nevertheless, it is uncertain how collection pressure will fluctuate over the coming years, and as with most herbs of medicinal value future changes in the market may put increased pressure on this species (Suggs pers. comm., Blakley pers. comm.). An amount estimated between 10,000 and 25,000 lbs. (dry) was traded last year, all of which came from wildcrafting sources since there are no significant cultivation sources for this species in the medicinal market (Blakley pers. comm.). A larger market is predicted in the near future for this species (Suggs pers. comm., Blakley pers. comm.), and efforts to cultivate this species are just beginning. Such cultivation efforts may require large investments before they become economically viable. The information on abundance and trends in population status indicates concern but its uncertainty also indicates the need for better information and monitoring.

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Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%

Comments: The species is speculated to be declining globally. It may be declining in southeast Manitoba and Quebec due to intensive development and clearing of woodlots (Punter pers. comm., Labrecque pers. comm.). This species may also be stable in some portions of its range (Ode pers. comm., Enser pers. comm., Freeman pers. comm.).

This species is likely to decline rangewide due to consistent or increased collection pressure until a viable cultivated alternative exists (Corbin pers. comm., Blakley pers. comm.). Monitoring would be necessary in order to establish whether the species is stable or declining but based on the information on amounts collected, the only logical conclusion to be made is that it is declining.

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Threats

Comments: Small and Catling (1999) indicate that this species is harvested in the wild in North America, and in certain areas is considered at risk from collection pressures (Punter pers. comm.). Some predict an increased market for this species in the near future (Suggs pers. comm.).

There is evidence, obtained from a reliable source, of plant collecting from wild populations for the plant trade in central Tennessee; national forests in North Carolina; and in Hoosier National Forest, Indiana.

Plants have been collected from national forest lands for medicinal plant trade from 3 Ranger Districts in the North Carolina mountains; all of the collection permits were obtained within the last 4 years (Kauffman pers. comm.). Illegal collection is likely to be at or in excess of the amount specified below for the legal permits (Kauffman pers. comm.). Most of the collection of this species in the North Carolina mountains is occurring in the Black and Craggy Mountain ranges (Kauffman pers. comm.). A few permits were requested from Hoosier National Forest prior to the cessation of herb collection permitting there recently (Jacquart pers. comm.). This species is traded overseas, though currently the U.S. market for this species is relatively small (Blakley pers. comm.). Apparently, this species is being actively sought on the Chinese and Korean black market, where it gets prices between $15-30 per pound (dry weight; Corbin pers. comm.). Wildcrafters and tradesmen are very quiet and proprietary about how much is collected and where (Suggs pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Corbin pers. comm.), so information on amounts is very difficult to come by. In Tennessee, this plant is collected from the wild and sold as nursery stock (Warren Co. Nursery). Most or all material on the market is from wildcrafted sources (Blakley pers. comm., Fletcher pers. comm.). There are reports that migrant workers are now being employed for wildcrafting, which has resulted in much more thorough collection from populations of other species (Corbin pers. comm.).

Forest Service collection permits: 1996: 10 lbs. (dry); 1997: 200 lbs. (dry); 1998: 100 lbs. (dry); 1999: 600 lbs. (dry) (Kauffman pers. comm.).

An amount estimated between 10,000 and 25,000 lbs. (dry) was traded last year, all of which came from wildcrafting sources since there are no significant cultivation sources for this species in the medicinal market (Blakley pers. comm.). A large dealer in herbs based in the southern Appalachians sold 8,000-10,000 lbs. (dry) in 1999 (Fletcher pers. comm.).

A person knowledgable about the herbal medicinal trade says that the plant receives moderate to heavy use of perhaps 7000 pounds/year, and that the market is fairly static (McGuffin pers. comm.).

As with all native forest herbs, habitat conversion and development are significant direct threats (Homoya pers. comm., Punter pers. comm., Kunsman pers. comm., Pearson pers. comm., Labrecque pers. comm., Frye pers. comm.). Equally significant threats include habitat fragmentation and displacement by exotic species (Homoya pers. comm., Penskar pers. comm., Frye pers. comm., Steinauer pers. comm., Enser pers. comm.). The alteration of hydrology by development of bluffs above populations may also present a locally significant threat (Penskar pers. comm.). This species and its habitat are vulnerable to grazing and trampling by free-range cattle in portions of its range (Steinauer pers. comm., Ode pers. comm.).

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Management

Biological Research Needs: There is a critical need to develop adequate propagation techniques for cultivation of this species, and to determine sustainable collection levels from healthy, wild populations (Kauffman pers. comm.; Blakley pers. comm.). There have been some references to low pollination levels (Small and Catling 1999), which may merit further investigation (Punter pers. comm.). Further work on the demography of this species is needed to determine minimum viable population sizes. A better understanding of the natural history, breeding systems, and genetic variation both within and between populations is also desirable.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is dappled sunlight during the spring, followed by light shade during the summer, at a location that has average moisture levels and fertile loamy soil. The soil should also contain abundant organic matter from decaying leaves and other plant materials, as typically occurs underneath trees. The large seeds are difficult to germinate. However, once it becomes established at a favorable site, Blue Cohosh is long-lived.
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Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG, ESTHETIC

Production Methods: Wild-harvested

Comments: A new toxicity resulting from consumption of this plant has been reported (McGuffin pers. comm.).

Prices for this species were found as follows:

Southeast, black market: $15-30/lb (dry)

National, internet: $10/oz (1:5 ratio, wildcrafted source)

Central Tennessee, nursery: $0.60/whole plant bare root (wild-collected, sold in bundles of 50)

National, internet: $9.50/(45 capsules @ 450mg each)

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Wikipedia

Caulophyllum thalictroides

Caulophyllum thalictroides, blue cohosh a species of Caulophyllum (family Berberidaceae), also called squaw root or papoose root, is a flowering plant in the Berberidaceae (barberry) family. It is a medium-tall perennial with blue berry-like fruits and bluish-green foliage.

Uses[edit]

Inflorescence

It  is used as a medicinal herb by American Indians.[1] Many Native American tribes, and later European herbologists and mid-wives,[2] would use this herb in conjunction with other herbs and fluids for abortive and contraceptive purposes.[3]

Characteristics[edit]

From the single stalk rising from the ground, there is a single, large, three-branched leaf plus a fruiting stalk. The bluish-green leaflets are tulip-shaped, entire at the base, but serrate at the tip. Its species name, thalictroides, comes from the similarity between the large highly divided, multiple-compound leaves of Meadow-rue (Thalictrum) and those of Blue Cohosh.

It is found in hardwood forest of the eastern United States, and favors moist coves and hillsides, generally in shady locations, in rich soil. It grows in eastern North America, from Manitoba and Oklahoma east to the Atlantic Ocean.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cichoke, Anthony J. (2001). Secrets of Native American herbal remedies: a comprehensive guide to the Native American tradition of using herbs and the mind/body/spirit connection for improving health and well-being. Penguin. pp. Blue Cohosh. ISBN 1-58333-100-X. 
  2. ^ Henriettesherbal. "Herbal Abortives and Birth Control". Henriettes-herb.com. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Sisterzeus. "Blue Cohosh". Sisterzeus.com. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
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Notes

Comments

Native Americans used various preparations of the root of Caulophyllum thalictroides medicinally to treat rheumatism, toothaches, profuse menstruation, indigestion and stomach cramps, fits and hysterics, genito-urinary disfunction, gallstones, and fever, as an aid in childbirth, and as a general tonic (D. E. Moermann 1986).
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: As treated here (following Kartesz, 1994 checklist), excludes Caulophyllum giganteum. Kartesz (1994) does not recognize infraspecific taxa within C. thalictroides.

Some authors consider this species to have a variety giganteum, with a broadly similar but somewhat more restricted range. Kartesz (1999) treats this as a separate species, Caulophyllum giganteum. This plant is quite similar, differing primarily only in size (Flora of North America 1997), and could be easily confused and cross-collected with C. thalictroides.

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