Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hepatica acutiloba

     The Doctrine of Signatures is a rather bizarre concept that was embraced by herbalists of long ago. The idea comes from a couple of religious Europeans who suggested that God marked his creations with a signature that suggests its purpose to mankind.  Plants that resembled body parts were thought to have been created in order to treat ailments of that body part.  In the days before pharmacuticals, plants were heavily collected and used as medicine.  The idea was that since God is responsible for disease, he must also have created a natural cure for the disease.
     Such is the story behind the plant named Liverleaf (Hepatica acutiloba). In fact, even the scientific name of this plant refers to its resemblance to the liver as "Hepatica" comes from the Latin "epatikos" meaning "affecting the liver."  This plant has leaves that are distinctly three-lobed and in the dormant season they turn liver-colored (brown).  The human liver is also three-lobed and brown, therefore it was once thought that this plant could be used to treat liver disease.  However, this species is in the Ranunculaceae (the Buttercup family), which is a family of plants that are largely toxic!

     Liverleaf is generally distributed throughout Illinois, but is restricted to undisturbed woodlands.  It has no petals as the showy portions of the flower are technically sepals. It is one of our earliest spring wildflowers.

No comments:

Post a Comment