Botanical Name: Lewisia rediviva
Species: L. rediviva
Synonyms: Lewisia alba.
Common Names: Bitter-Root
French trappers knew the plant as racème amer (bitter root). Native American names included spetlum or spetlem, meaning “bitter”, nakamtcu (Ktanxa: naqam¢u), and mootaa-heseeotse
Habitat: Lewisia rediviva is native to western N. America – Montana to British Columbia, south to California and Colorado. It grows in gravelly to heavy, usually dry soils. Rocky dry soils of valleys, or on foothills, stony slopes, ridges and mountain summits to about 2,500 metres.
Lewisia rediviva is a small perennial herb, growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in).It has a fleshy taproot and a simple or branched base. The flower stems are leafless, 1–3 centimetres (0.4–1.2 in) tall, bearing at the tip a whorl of 5–6 linear bracts which are 5–10 mm long. A single flower appears on each stem with 5–9 oval-shaped sepals. They range in color from whitish to deep pink or lavender. Flowering occurs from April through July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) The petals (usually about 15) are oblong in shape and are 18–35 millimetres (0.7–1.4 in) long. At maturity, the bitterroot produces egg-shaped capsules with 6–20 nearly round seeds…...CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
Meriwether Lewis ate bitterroot in 1805 and 1806 during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The specimens he brought back were identified and given their scientific name, Lewisia rediviva, by a German-American botanist, Frederick Pursh.
The bitterroot was selected as the Montana state flower on February 27, 1895.
Requires a very well-drained gritty humus-rich deep soil in a sunny position. This species is not reliably hardy in Britain. It can withstand consistently very cold weather but does not like alternating periods of mild and cold conditions, nor does it like winter wet. The plant is very susceptible to rotting at the neck in a damp soil. The plant is easy to kill by over-watering but extremely difficult to kill by under-watering. Roots that have been dried and stored for a number of years have been known to come back into growth when moistened. The plant dies down after flowering and re-appears in September. It must be kept dry whilst dormant. It is best grown in a greenhouse or bulb frame. A very ornamental plant, it is the state flower of Montana. Very apt to hybridize with other members of this genus.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame in a very freely draining soil. Sow stored seed as soon as possible in a cold frame. One months cold stratification should improve germination, though this is still likely to be very slow. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in March/April. Very difficult.
Root – cooked. The root was a staple food of some native North American Indian tribes. It is said to be extremely nutritious, 50 – 80 grams being sufficient to sustain an active person for a day. The root is, however, rather small and tedious to collect in quantity. It is easiest to use when the plant is in flower in the spring, because the outer layer of the root (which is very bitter) slips off easily at this time of the year. Whilst being boiled the roots become soft and swollen and exude a pink mucilaginous substance. The root swells to about 6 times its size and resembles a jelly-like substance. The root has a good taste though a decided bitter flavour develops afterwards. If the root is stored for a year or two the bitterness is somewhat reduced. The root can also be dried, ground into a powder and used as a mush or a thickener in soups etc.
The root is cardiac and galactogogue. An infusion of the root has been used to increase the milk flow in nursing mothers, to relieve heart pain and the pain of pleurisy and also as a blood purifier. The root has been eaten raw to counteract the effects of poison ivy rash and as a treatment for diabetes. The pounded dry root has been chewed in the treatment of sore throats. A poultice of the raw roots has been applied to sores.
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.