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Snakeroot

(1) Aristolochia serpentaria L.; (2) A. reticulata Nutt.

Snakeroot
Figure 99.—Snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria)
Other common names.—(1) Virginia snakeroot, Virginia serpentaria, serpentary, snakeweed, pelicanflower, snagrel, sangrol, sangree-root; (2) Texas snakeroot, Texas serpentaria, Red River snakeroot.

Habitat and range.—Virginia snakeroot is found in rich woods from Connecticut to Michigan and southward, principally among the Alleghenies, and Texas snakeroot occurs in the Southwestern States, growing along river banks from Arkansas to Louisiana.

Description of Virginia snakeroot.—This plant is nearly erect, the slender, wavy stem sparingly branched near the base growing usually to about a foot in height sometimes, however, even reaching 3 feet. It has thin leaves, heart-shaped at the base and pointed at the apex, about 2 1/2 inches long and from 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide. The dull-brown, somewhat leathery flowers are produced individually from near the base of the plant on slender stems. The fruit is round, about half an inch in diameter, and contains numerous seeds. Serpentaria has a short rootstock with many thin, branching, fibrous roots. The rootstock has a very agreeable, aromatic, camphorlike odor and a warm, bitterish, camphoraceous taste.

Description of Texas snakeroot.—This plant has a very wavy stem with oval, heart-shaped, clasping leaves which are rather thick and marked with a network of veins. The entire plant is hairy, with numerous long, coarse hairs. The small densely hairy, purplish flowers are produced from the base of the plant. The rootstock of this species is larger and has fewer small roots than that of the Virginia snakeroot.

Part used.—The roots of both species, collected in autumn.


Sievers, A.F. 1930. The Herb Hunters Guide. Misc. Publ. No. 77. USDA, Washington DC.
Last update Friday, April 3, 1998 by aw