“Balanophora fungosa is a parasitic plant growing on the roots of rainforest plants. The flowering structure is shaped like a toadstool but consists of a globe covered with thousands of tiny female flowers. The globe is surrounded at its base by a much smaller number of male flowers. In flower, the plant emits an odour resembling that of mice.”
Balanophora fungosa: a flowering plant that parasitizes roots of trees, and is entirely lacking in green pigments. Balanophora fungosa obtains water and nutrients from the host plant it is attached to. […] This species inhabits coastal forests in Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan (Ryukyu Islands), New Guinea, Philippines, Australia, and Pacific Islands.
Photo credit: Jeremy Holden
Locality: Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia
Pipsissewa is an evergreen, so it has green leaves year-round (meaning it can complete photosynthesis throughout the year). However it also meets a substantial portion of it’s nutritional needs through symbiotic relationships with fungi that live in the soil (that is, it is a partial myco-heterotroph) around it. This makes it extremely difficult to cultivate, since the fungi it naturally grows with are needed for it to do thrive …
“Pipsissewa” is a Cree name meaning “It-breaks-into-small-pieces”. This is due to it’s use as a treatment for kidney stones.
“Chimaphila” is derived from the Greek words “cheima”, for “winter” and “philos” for loving — this is due to the fact that it is an evergreen.
* Leaves are tasty to nibble on.
* Both the leaves, and roots make a delicious tea.
* It was a primary ingredient in root beer, long ago.
* Pipsissewa was used as a medicine for a variety of ailments, by tribes ranging throughout N. America, and is still used today by modern “mainstream” medical practitioners.
* The Flathead and Kutenai Indians used it primarily as an eye medicine. Kutenai Indians also used a tea made from this plant for kidney trouble. [[usfs — idaho panhandle]]
References / Bibliography
- Plants For A Future — Chimaphila umbellata
- Botanical.com — Pipsissewa
- USDA Plants DB — Chimaphila umbellata
- Wikipedia — Chimaphila umbellata
- USFS — Wildflowers of N. Idaho
Also try using the full species name “Chimaphila umbellata” as a search phrase in the Native American Ethnobotany Database.
Low, creeping, evergreen herb … red berries … waxy oval leaves. Take a look:
Bearberry is a “pioneer” plant. This means that when a mature, stable ecosystem is disturbed (such as when a timber company comes in and destroys a forest), bearberry will be one of the first species to move in and establish itself.
Berries can be eaten, but are dry, mealy, and bland. They aren’t bad though — try mixing them in as nutritious “filler” with one of your stews.
Bearberry is one of the most effective herbal treatments for urinary tract infections, and was used by numerous Native American tribes for this purpose. Chemically, a compound known as hydroquinone (which is present in high amounts in the leaves of bearberry) is responsible. Hydroquinone is strongly antiseptic and antibacterial — and is especially effective against all of the small group (~5 to be precise) of organisms which are normally responsible for causing urinary tract infections.
The hydroquinone in bearberry, however, is contained within a compound called arbutin, which is essentially hydroquinine with some attached sugars. In order for the hydroquinone to act on your body, you need alkaline urine to ensure that once the bonds attaching the sugars to the hydroquinone have been broken, that it will remain a free molecule that can float around in there and kill those nasty infectious little beasties … That is, the hydroquinine will still detach from the sugars if your urine is not alkaline, but it will quickly combine with other chemical compounds, and pass out of your system without doing anything.
How to get alkaline urine? Simple: consume a lot of basic (as in high pH) food/drinks such as milk, cheese, etc. And avoid foods/drinks that contain large amounts of vitamin C and acids — no coffee, orange juice, or key lime pie for you!
Like any other strong medicine, bearberry has a few cautions. First off, pregnant women and children should not be treated with bearberry. It has the effect of reducing bloodflow to the fetus of pregnant women, and is somewhat harsh on the liver, which young kids have a hard time handling. Also, it should not be used for longer than a week — if it still burns when you tinkle after a week of it … you should probably try something else!
This plant was smoked by a large number of Native American tribes along with or instead of tobacco and other smoking mixtures.
Also used to make yellow-red dye …
Commonly planted as an attractive & edible groundcover in yards and gardens.
The name means “bear grapes”, derived from Greek arkto (bear) and staphyle (grape). [[wiki]]
Often called uva-ursi, from the Latin uva, “grape, berry of the vine”, ursi, “bear”, i.e. “bear’s grape”. [[wikipedia]]
References / Bibliography
Delicious berries! One of my favorites … They are high in vitamin C as well.
You can also eat the shoots when they are still young and tender — just peel them, and either eat them raw, or cook them up like you would asparagus. These too are high in Vitamin C.
The white flowers can be eat raw as well — put them on a salad to make it all nice and pretty!
The leaves are antiemetic, astringent, blood tonic and stomachic. An infusion is used internally in the treatment of stomach complaints, diarrhoea and dysentery, anaemia, the spitting up of blood and to treat vomiting. [[pfaf]]]
The large, soft leaves make an excellent toilet paper. Something about the non-waxy, ridged texture grabs the poop well. And the leaves are nice and big so you don’t get poop all over your hands!
And you can make soap by boiling the bark …