Classif. Nat. Order of Monotropes. Decandria monogynia L.
Genus PTEROSPORA. Calyx five parted. Corolla ovate, five toothed. Ten stamina, inserted on the receptacle, anthers peltate, two celled, adnate, bisetose. One pistil, one style, stigma five lobed. Capsule five celled, seeds minute winged.
Sp. Pterospora andromedea. Nuttal. Stem simple, viscid, and scaly; flowers irregularly racemose, nodding.
Description. Root perennial, large, white, amorphous, full of irregular curved fleshy tubercles, resembling the claws of animals. Stem erect, one or two feet high, simple, straight, covered with short brown viscid hairs, cylindrical, without leaves, but some small scattered and subulate scales. Flowers in a long terminal raceme, flowers scattered, some fasciculated, axillary to linear bracts, color reddish white, peduncle curved, nodding. Calyx with five ovate ciliate segments. Corolla resembling Andromeda, marcescent, ovate, with five reflexed oval obtuse teeth. Ten stamina inclosed, filaments subulate, flat, arising from below the pistils; anthers singular, semi-adnate. semi-peltate, two cells opening transversely inside. Pistil free, style columnar, stigma capitate, nearly five lobed. Capsule globose, five celled, semi five valved, valves septiferous, receptacle central, five lobed. Seeds minute, obovate, with a terminal wing, membranaceous and reticulated.
History. A very singular plant, similar in habit to Hypopythis, but with flowers like Andromeda. It had long been known to herbalists, yet was unknown to botanists, when discovered by Dr. James, in 1816, near Albany, and called Monotropa procera. In 1818, Nuttal established the genus, but mistook it for annual. It has as yet been found only in some sterile hilly sides, in the State of New York, in Genessee, near Albany, &c. It blossoms in July. It affords some varieties, 1. Flavicaulis. 2. Leucorhiza. 3. Elatior. 4. Pauciflora.
Properties. The root is the officinal part, resembling that of Monotropa; it has a vapid smell, and a mucilaginous astringent taste. It is employed by the Indians, the herbalists, and the Shakers of New Lebanon, as a valuable vermifuge, sudorific, anodyne, deobstruent and menagogue. They distinguish two kinds with purple and yellow stems, (called male and female) pretending that the first is best, but obviously wrongly. It is said to avail in all remittents, typhus, and nervous fevers; it produces a profuse perspiration, and often stops the fever in a few hours. It also relieves the night hectic fever, without debilitating the patients. It avails in pleurisies and erysipelatose fever. It is chiefly good in all low stages of fevers. Employed also in coughs, pains in the breast, and other diseases of the breast, made into a syrup. It is the base of some pectoral balsams. Also taken in decoction and in powder. My experiments on this root in diseases of the lungs, have not yet satisfied me of its utility; it appears useless in scrofulous consumption, but is beneficial in hectic fever and pains in the breast, much more so than Hepatica. This plant being rare, is sold high by the Shakers and herbalists. The Eupatorium, much more common, is probably also a preferable equivalent.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.