Classif. Nat. Order of Unisemous. Hexandria monogynia L.
Genus UNISEMA. Perigone simple corolliform, 6 cleft, bilabiate, marcescent, each lip unequally trifid, upper longest. Stamens 6, unequal, inserted on the tube. Pistil oblong, one filiform style and stigma. Fruit a single oblong seed, coated by the marcescent perigone. Roots creeping, perennial. Stem one leaved, with a terminal vaginate spike.
Sp. Unisema deltifolia. Raf. See sp. 1.
History. This striking genus is formed with the Pontedoria cordata of L. I observed as early as 1802, the singular one seeded fruit, and established the genus in 1807 and 1817. Nuttal. in 1818, confirmed my observation; but choose to retain the Linnaean name, and consider this as the type of the genus Pontedoria, although L. positively says that the fruit of it is 3 locular and many seeded. All the servile American botanists, and even Torrey, who has verified the fruit, have followed this absurdity. The Linnaean genus Pontederia, was, and is yet, a cahos; many genera have been taken from it, Phrynium, Heterandra, Leptanthus, Schollera, &c; the first, which is monandrous, belong to the Drymirhezous, the others form the natural order of Pontederides, along with the true G. Pontederia, of which the type is P. azurea, P. natans, P. dilatata, P. vaginalis, &c. of the tropical climates, with a trilocular polysperm capsule. The whole genus, however, must be carefully examined again, as some species may have a different fruit or flower. I have already ascertained two other new genera blended with it.
1. Lunania. Raf. Corolla tubular, 6 cleft, unequal, 3 filaments and anthers in the tube, one style, 6 stigmas, capsule 3 locular, 3 valve polysperm. My L. uniflore is the P. limosa of L. native of Jamaica, Mexico, and Texas, different from the Leptanthus ovalis of North America; mistaken for it by some. It has leaves cordate ovate, scapes lateral uniflore. Dedicated to Lunan, author of the hortus Jamaicensis.
2. Calcarunia. Raf. The P. hastata L. of Asia, which has one of the 6 filaments with a spur, and three stigmas.
My genus Unisema is quite peculiar to North America, and perfectly natural in habit. It must be the type of a new natural order indicated in 1815 by me, and distinguished from all the monocotyle plants by perigone and stamens unequal, a single seed, which has several affinities with the orders of Alismaceous, Dracontides, Orontides, Piperides, Comelines, and Pontederides, but differs from them all. It has many species, ascertained by myself, which our Linnaean botanists, and even Torrey, persist to consider as more varieties, because they have a general natural habit. They all grow in water, ponds, streams, &c. and are perfectly smooth; their perennial roots creep like those of Nymphea, and throw out tufts of radical leaves on long petioles, with a terete articulated stem, bearing one leaf, with a variegated petiole and a terminal dense spike, with a membranaceous oblong obtuse vagina below the base, thus almost resembing a spatha and spadix. These flowers are blue, with a yellowish white spot on the lower lip, and blossom in summer from June to August. They are fine ornamental plants, but scentless; the seeds, which resemble those of some grasses, are white, oblong obtuse, farinaceous, with a central cylindrical embryo; they germinate only under water, and when fresh. I have already noticed as many as 9 species.
1. Sp. Unisema deltifolia. Raf. Radical leaves, perfectly oblong deltoid or shovelform, base acute, end obtuse; stem leaf oblong deltoid, undulate, base subreniform, lobes rounded: spike elongated, segments of the flower oval obtuse. In west Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, &c. Stem about three feet high, leaves 5 to 8 inches long, spike 3 inches.
2. Sp. U. purshiana. Raf. (P. angustifolia of Pursh.) Leaves elongated triangular, base truncate subcordate. end acute. Segments of the flower linear lanceolate. In the Southern States.
3. Sp. U. media. Raf. Leaves oblong cordate, base cordate, end obtuse; stem leaf consimilar, spike cylindrical, segments of the flower oblong obtuse. From New York to Carolina. Var. 1. Albiflora. 2. Angustifolia.
4. Sp. U. obliquata. Raf. Leaves more or less oblique, with unequal sides; radical oblong deltoid, base subhastate, end obtuse; stem leaf cordate oblong: spike short oblong, segments of the flowers linear obtuse. In New Jersey and Virginia. About 2 feet high.
5. Sp. U. latifolia. Raf. Leaves broad cordate, very obtuse, spike cylindrical, elongated, segments of the flower oval. Very common, chiefly in the Southern States. Stem 3 to 5 feet high. Var. 1. Elatior. 2. Undulata. 3. Albiflora. 4. Pallida.
6. Sp. U. acutifolia. Raf. (figured in Lamark Illustr. as P. cordata.) Leaves cordate acute, spike cylindrical, segments of the flowers oval oblong. Found by Bose in Carolina; I have never seen it.
7. Sp. U. mucronata. Raf. 1807. Leaves narrow oblong, base broader cordate, end with a long obtuse point: spike cylindrical, segments oblong. In Virginia, found by Mr. Hingston in 1800, seen in his herbarium in 1804.
8. Sp. U. heterophylla. Raf. Leaves narrow, oblong or lanceolate, base subcordate or nearly rounded, end obtuse, spike oblong, segments linear oblong. From New York to Louisiana. Stem only 12 to 18 inches high. Var. 1. Lanceolata. 2. Stenocardia. Leaves small, often variable on the same plant.
9. Sp. U. rotundifolia. Raf. Leaves rounded obtuse, base hardly cordate; spike oblong, segments oval, perhaps a variety of the last. In the Western States, rare, stem weak and short. This is not the Pontederia rotundifolia of L. which has orbicular cordate leaves, and grows in South America, but it may be a tenth specie of this genus: if so, it may be called U. orbiculata.
Properties. I have the pleasure to introduce this singular genus to medical notice. All the species have similar properties; they reside chiefly in the roots, which are emollient, restringent, and anti-scrofulous. The leaves form an excellent cooling topical application for inflammations on the surface of the body; they can be eaten boiled as greens, although rather austere when raw; the Indians use them along with Tradescantia, Commelina, Orontium, Nymphea, &c. The seeds are edible farinaceous, and were used by them for cakes and other dishes, like the seeds of Orontium. The roots are nearly equivalent to Nymphea, but much milder and mucilaginous. They may be employed in the same diseases, gleets, leucorrhea, fluxes, and externally for scrofulous tumors and sores. No medical writer has noticed these plants; they are only known to a few herbalists, and have not yet been analyzed.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.