Herbs & Plants

Trillium erectum

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Botanical Name :Trillium erectum
Family: Melanthiaceae
Genus: Trillium
Species: T. erectum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Liliales

Common Names: Wake-robin, Red trillium, Purple trillium, Beth root, or stinking Benjamin

Habitat :Trillium erectum  is  native to the east and north-east of North America. – Quebec to Ontario and Michigan, south to Tennessee. It grows in  cool, rich, moist, neutral to acidic soils of upland deciduous forests, mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, coniferous swamp borders at elevations of 200 – 700 metres.

Trillium erectum  is a Spring ephemeral, an herbaceous perennial plant  whose life-cycle is synchronised with that of the deciduous forests where it lives.

This plant grows to about 40 cm (16 in) in height with a spread of 30 cm (12 in), and can tolerate extreme cold in winter, surviving temperatures down to  -35 °C (-31 °F). Like all trilliums, its parts are in groups of three, with 3-petalled flowers above whorls of pointed triple leaves.  The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals and crystal raphide, and should not be consumed by humans. The flowers are a deep red colour, though there is a white form. The flowers have the smell of rotting meat, as they are pollinated by flies.

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The plant takes its name “wake-robin” by analogy with the Robin, which has a red breast heralding spring.

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit.

Landscape Uses:Border, Ground cover, Woodland garden. Prefers a deep well-drained woodland or humus-rich soil in a somewhat shady position that remains moist in the summer. Prefers a neutral to slightly acid soil. Grows well in open deciduous woodland. Succeeds in a sunny position if the soil does not dry out. Succeeds in deep shade. A very hardy plant. Plants are long-lived. Any transplanting is best done whilst the plants are in flower. A very variable species, it is subject to mutation. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits, though slugs are very fond of the leaves. The flowers have an unattractive smell rather like putrefied flesh. The white-flowered form, blandum, is almost scentless. Plants can flower in two years from seed. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Flowers have an unpleasant odor.

Seed – best sown in a shaded cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed should be sown in late winter or early spring. Seed usually germinates within 1 – 3 months at 15°c. Another report says that seeds produce a root after the first cold stratification but no shoot is produced until after a second winter, whilst yet another report says that the seed can take 3 years to germinate. The seedlings are prone to damp off and must therefore be watered with care and given plenty of fresh air. The young plants need to be overwintered in a cold frame for the first year and can then be planted out in late spring. It is very important that the pots become neither too dry nor too wet. Division with care when the plants die down after flowering. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.

Edible Uses:   Leaves – raw or cooked. Used in spring, the young unfolding leaves are an excellent addition to the salad bowl, tasting somewhat like sunflower seeds. Leaves can also be cooked as a potherb.

Parts Used: root

Constituents:  saponins


Medicinal Uses:

Properties: * Anodyne * emetic * Expectorant

* Cough * Menopause

Beth root was traditionally used by various native North American Indian tribes as a woman’s herb to aid childbirth, as a treatment for irregular menstrual periods, period pains and excessive vaginal discharge. Modern research has shown that the root contains steroidal saponins, which have hormonal effects on the bod. These saponins are being used in gynaecological and obstetric medicine. This herb should not be taken during pregnancy except under professional supervision. The root is antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, expectorant, tonic, uterine toni. It is used internally in the treatment of a wide range of women’s complaints including haemorrhage from the uterus, urinary tract and lungs, and also to curb excessive menstruation. It has proved to be of value in stopping bleeding after parturition. Externally, it is used to treat excessive vaginal discharge, ulcers (especially varicose), skin complaints, gangrene, insect bites and stings. It is also used as a wash for sore nipples. The root is harvested in late summer, after the leaves have died down, and is dried for later use. The whole plant is used as a poultice for tumours, inflammations and ulcers

It was also used to as a parturition herb. 1 Beth root was used in early American cough and cold syrups as an expectorant.  The saponins in beth root have been used as an industrial source for the pharmaceutical industry. While Beth root certainly has some good medicinal qualities, this species is considered to be endangered and should be conserved and not wildcrafted for use on a commercial basis.

Known Hazards:  Can cause nausea in high doses and promote labour and menstruation. Local application can cause irritation. Should not be used during pregnancy

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


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