English Name—YELLOW LADIES' SLIPPER.
French Name—Sabot de venus jaune.
German Name—Gelb Frauenschuh.
Officinal Name—Cypripedium radix.
Vulgar Names—Mocasin flower, Yellows, Bleeding heart, American Valerian, Yellow Umbil, Male Nervine, Noah's Ark, &c.
Synonyms—Cypripedium Calceolus Var. b. Lin.—Cypr. luteum Aiton—C. flavescens Redoute—C. pubescens and C. parviflorum Wildenow, Salisbury, Persoon, Pursh, Elliot, Torrey, Eaton, W. Barton, &c.
Authorities—Wildenow, Aiton, Pursh, Elliot, W. Bart. flora fig. 74, &c.
Genus CYPRIPEDIUM—Perigone symphogyne concrete with the germen at the base, with five unequal sepals or divisions, superior and often colored; the innermost or labellum larger, different, ventricose, split. Central pillar or gonophore bearing two Anthers and a terminal lobe.
Species C. LUTEUM—Stem leafy, leaves broad, often acute and pubescent; flowers with the labellum shorter than the other sepals, saccate and compressed, two inner sepals linear spiral and very long, terminal central lobe deltoid nearly obtuse.
Description—Roots perennial with many long, thick, fleshy cylindrical and flexuose fibres, of a pale yellowish cast, diverging horizontally from the caudex.—Stems one to five from the same caudex, simple, erect, often pubescent and angular, rising one or two feet, three to seven leaves, and one to three flowers. Leaves alternate, sessile, sheathing, ovate or oblong, acute pubescent or smooth, but always entire and with many parallel nerves, green above, paler beneath.
Flowers sessile, when more than one, each has a bracteal leaf. Germen concrete or inferior, green, cylindrical, often curved. Perigone with five unequal and different sepals, called petals by the Linnean Botanists: two are external oblong or lanceolate, acute, longer than the labellum and green: two are internal longer, narrower, spirally contorted and green: the fifth or innermost and lower, called Labellum, is totally different from the others, shorter but larger, yellow with or without red spots, hollow like a bag, convex beneath, rounded in front, split above with indexed margins. Style and stamina concrete in the centre, above the germen, forming a central pillar, flattened above into an oblong deltoid lobe, supposed to be the stigma by some Botanists, and bearing before two anthers, lodged in separate cells.—The fruit is an oblong capsul, with one cell, three valves, and a multitude of minute seeds, as in all the Orchideous tribe.
History—The natural order of the ORCHIDEOUS to which this plant belongs, is a very striking and peculiar tribe of Monocotyle vegetables, which even Linnaeus considered as natural, and put in his class Gynandria and order Diandria, although most of them are truly monandrous. He called their perigone, a corolla, because often colored, and deemed the labellum a nectary, while it is evidently a part of the perigone or sexual covering. The generic name of Cypripedium, means Venus' Shoe; it is a splendid genus containing several beautiful American and Asiatic species. Many Botanists have made two species, C. pubescens and C. parviflorumof this, to which the previous and better name of C. luteum ought to be restored. I have ascertained that they form only one species, affording many varieties, some of which are
1. C. L. Var. pubescens, entirely pubescent even the flowers.
2. C. L. Var. glabrum, nearly smooth.
3. C. L. Var. grandiflorum, slightly pubescent, labellum very large.
4. C. L. Var. parviflorum, slightly pubescent, labellum small.
5. C. L. Var. maculatum, labellum more or less spotted, with red dots, lobule often red.
6. C. L. Var. biflorum, with two flowers and bracteoles.
7. C. L. Var. concolor, the whole flower yellow or yellowish, unspotted.
8. C. L. Var. angustifolium, leaves and bracteoles lanceolate.
A multitude of intermediate varieties or deviations may be seen, with undulate or spiral sepals, obtuse or acute lobule, broader or narrower leaves, &c.
This plant blossoms in May and June; it is much valued in gardens for its beauty and singularity, but it is difficult to cultivate: it will seldom grow from seeds; the roots must be taken up with earth round them, and transplanted in a congenial rich light soil. For medical use, they must be collected in the fall, or early in the spring, carefully dried and reduced to powder.
Locality—Found all over the United States, from New England to Louisiana; but very rare in some places, while it is common in the hills and swamps of New York, the Highlands, Green and Catskill Mountains, and also in the glades and prairies of the Western States.
Qualities—The roots are the only medical parts: they have a pungent, mucilaginous taste, and a peculiar smell, somewhat nauseous. They contain extractive, gum, fecula, and perhaps a small portion of essential oil.
Properties—It is with some satisfaction that I am enabled to introduce, for the first time, this beautiful genus into our Materia Medica: all the species are equally medical; they have long been known to the Indians, who called them Mocasin flower, and were used by the Empirics of New England, particularly Samuel Thompson. Their properties however have been tested and confirmed by Dr. Hales of Troy, Dr. Tuily of Albany, &c. The most efficient is the C. luteum, next C. acaule, and last C. spectabile and C. candidum. Neither Schoepf nor any other medical writer has mentioned them.
They are sedative, nervine, antispasmodic, &c. and the best American substitute for Valerian in almost all cases. They produce beneficial effects in all nervous diseases and hysterical affections, by allaying pain, quieting the nerves and promoting sleep. They are also used in hemicrania, epilepsy, tremors, nervous fevers, &c. They are preferable to Opium in many cases, having no baneful nor narcotic effects. The dose is a tea spoonful of the powder, diluted in sugar water, or any other convenient form. As in Valerian, the nervine power is increased by combination with mild tonics. The powder alone has been used; but an extract might be also efficient, unless the active principle is very volatile.
It is well known that the roots of all the tubercular Orchideous, afford the officinal Salep, which is so highly esteemed in Asia as aphrodisiac, nutritive and pectoral. The roots of many species of Orchis could afford it in America. The Cypripedium having long fleshy roots appear to afford a different kind oi substance, by their efficiency as equivalents to Valerian and Opium.
Substitutes—All the species of this fine genus being equally nervine, it will be well to notice them, so as to be easily known.
1. C. acaule or Red Ladies' Slipper, Dwarf Umbil, &c.—Two radical leaves, one large red flower on a naked stem. Common in New Jersey and on the alluvial plains of the Atlantic States. Best substitute. Roots smaller and brownish. There is a bad figure of it in W. Barton's Am. Flora.
2. C. spectabile, or Red and White Ladies' Slipper, Female Nervine, &c.—Stem leafy, one or two flowers white and rose colored, sepals oval and short —Rare from New York to Louisiana.
3. C. candidum, or White Ladies' Slipper, White Umbil, &c.—Stem leafy, flower white, sepals longer than the labellum—Rare in deep woods, Pennsylvania to Ohio.
The other succedanea may be Valeriana officinalis—Humulus lupulus or hops—Ulmus fulva—Arnica Montana—Doronicum sp.—Cunila mariana—Inula helenium, &c.
Remarks—The Orchideous plants which have long roots like the Cypripedium, appear to have different properties from those which have round or oval tubercles. The Goodyera is antiscrofulous.
The Genus Cladorhiza or Corallorhiza, which has fleshy branched roots, has also active properties, &c. The Habenaria fimbriata has anthelmintic roots, and the Hab orbiculata is one of the Heal-alls or common Vulneraries.
All the bulbs of our tubercular Orchideous are more or less like Salep, Aphrodisiac and Uterine. But one of them the Aplectrum hyemale, (called formerly Cymbidium and Corallorhiza by other Botanists,) commonly known by the vulgar name of Adam and Eve, furnishes a kind of Glue, and has active properties. A species of the same genus Aplectrum lutescens which grows in the Western States, is said to be a powerful Uterine, employed by the Indian Women to procure abortion.
Additions and corrections
30. CYPRIPEDIUM LUTEUM—The flowers of this fine genus are favorites with the Indian women to deck their hair. I have been informed that in Onondaga and other western counties of New York, several physicians rely upon a decoction of the roots of C. spectubile as a valuable antispasmodic, which proves an effectual remedy in many cases when the common medicines have failed: doses a table spoonful of the decoction made by two ounces of the root in a pint of water.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.