Smearwort(Aristolochia rotunda)

Botanical Name:Aristolochia rotunda
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Genus: Aristolochia
Species: A. rotunda
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Piperales

Common Names : Round-leaved Birthwort, English Mercury, Mercury Goosefoot, Allgood, Tola Bona or (ambiguously) “Fat Hen”

Habitat:Native to Southern Europe.Found amongst shrubs and herbaceous plants along the sides of roads, in fields and in meadows

Description:
Smearwort is a perennial herb .It is a dark-green succulent plant that grows to about 2 feet high, rising from stout, fleshy, branching root-stock. It has large, smooth-edged, stalkless leaves that clasp the stem with enlarged, basal lobes and tubular, yellowish-green flowers with a prominent, dark-brown flap, 1 to 2 inches long, both terminal and arising from the axils of the leaves. The fruit is bladder-like and contains a single seed.

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The plant prefers medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil.The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils..It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.It requires moist soil.

Cultivation :
Prefers a well-drained loamy soil, rich in organic matter, in sun or semi-shade. Succeeds in ordinary garden soil.  . Most species in this genus have malodorous flowers that are pollinated by flies.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Pre-soak stored seed for 48 hours in hand-hot water and surface sow in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 1 – 3 months at 20°c. Stored seed germinates better if it is given 3 months cold stratification at 5°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Division in autumn. Root cuttings in winter

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Ediable uses:
Smearwort leaves can be gathered when young and delicate, then boiled in broth. If grown in rich soil, the shoots may be cut when no bigger than a pencil and five inches high, to be peeled and boiled, then eaten as asparagus.

Medicinal uses:
Abortifacient;  Antitussive;  Diuretic;  Emmenagogue;  Pectoral;  VermifugeVulnerary.

The root is antitussive, diuretic, emmenagogue, pectoral, vermifuge and vulnerary. This herb should only be used internally with expert advice since large doses can provoke abortions as well as poisoning with inflammation of the mucous membranes, resulting in respiratory paralysis. The plant contains aristolochic acid which, whilst stimulating white blood cell activity and speeding the healing of wounds, is also carcinogenic and damaging to the kidneys. Externally the plant is used to treat a variety of skin complaints including eczema and difficult to heal ulcers. The root is harvested in late spring and dried for later use[

The name Smearwort is derived from its use as ointment. Poultices derived from the leaves were used to heal chronic sores. Roots were often used on sheep to remedy cough.

Other Uses:
The seeds have found employment in the making of shagreen.

Known Hazards:
The plant is poisonous in large quantities. The plant contains aristolochic acid, this has received rather mixed reports on its toxicity. According to one report aristolochic acid stimulates white blood cell activity and speeds the healing of wounds, but is also carcinogenic and damaging to the kidneys. Another report says that it is an active antitumour agent but is too toxic for clinical use. Another report says that aristolochic acid has anti-cancer properties and can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiotherapy and that it also increases the cellular immunity and phagocytosis function of the phagocytic cells.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is  always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristolochia_rotunda
http://www.sharnoffphotos.com/nature/flowers_provence/aristolochia_rotunda.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Aristolochia%20rotunda
http://www.rareplants.de/shop/product.asp?P_ID=6096

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