Classif. Nat. Order of Berberides. Octandria monogynia L.
Genus JEFFERSONIA. Calyx 4 leaved, caducous, 8 petals, 8 stamina opposed to the petals, one pistil. Stigma sessile. Capsule obovate, substipitate, one celled, opening near the top by a transversal cut, top operculated. Seeds many, arillated, inserted on one side, opposite the fissure. Leaves all radical binate on long petioles. Scapes uniflore.
Only one species was known, but in 1820 I discovered the J. odorata in Kentucky, and in 1830 observed the J. lobata in Carr's garden, near Philadelphia. Their habit and properties being identic, I include them all in this article, and give their specific differences.
1. J. Bartoni, Mx. Folioles pendulous, entire, oblique, acute. Scape subclavate, stigma four lobed, capsule angular behind.
2. J. odorata, Raf. Folioles pendulous, entire, oblique, acute. Scape filiform, stigma capitate, sessile, capsule oblong, obovate. Varieties—1. Undulata. 2. Parvifolia. 3. Cespitosa.
3. J. Lobata, Raf. Folioles erect, oblique, lobed on the outside, lobes acute, sinusses ubtuse, petioles fistulose, capsules compressed and short. From Georgia, the flowers are large and inodorous.
Description—of the J. bartoni. Root large, perennial, yellow, multiform. Radical leaves on long erect petioles, binate or twin, with, two oblique folieles inserted on one side, each oval, acute, smooth. Scapes erect naked, thicker above, bearing one single flower,very much like that of Sanguinaria, white, inodorous. Petals oblong, lanceolate, obtuse, longer than the calyx. Anthers yellow. Pod coriaceus, covered with a lid like a helmet.
History. A very singular plant, mistaken by Linnaeus for a Popdophyllum and called P. diphyllum, distinguished by Dr. B. Barton, who dedicated it to the philosopher, naturalist, and Statesman, Jefferson. He called it binata, a name applying to all the species. Michaux gave it the actual name. It has since been wrongly united to the Nat. Order of Podophylacea, but I ascertained in 1820 that it belongs to Berberides, having the stamina equal, and opposed to the petals. It has a few varieties such as 1. Cespitosa, 2. Grandiflora, 3. Undulata, 4. Rosea, &c. It is found from Virginia and Maryland to Ohio and Missouri, chiefly near streams and rivers; it appears to be unknown in Carolina, since Elliot has omitted it. By the singular leaves and seed-vessels, and the fragrant flowers of J. odorata, smelling like Narcissus jonquilla, these plants deserve cultivation in gardens: they blossom early in April, and the flowers are very fugacious, lasting only a few days. The squirrels eat the seeds. The J. odorata is chiefly confined to the western states, Ohio, Kentucky, &c. and the J. lobata to Carolina and Georgia. Their properties are alike.
Properties. Similar to those of Hydrastis rather than Podophyllum, of which Barton ascribes to the root the taste, smell, and properties. It is yellow like the Eyeroot, but much larger, it stains of a yellow colour, and might be used as a tinctorial root. It is bitterish, somewhat pungent and nauseous, like Hydrastis and many other roots. It is not cathartic so far as I know. The Indians used this plant in Dropsy, and as a diuretic. The root alone is available. I have seen some weighing a pound: the shape is very variable, but frequently knobby. It is very efficacious as a topical tonic in sore eyes and sore legs. Other properties little known as yet, but deserving investigation.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.