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Medeola virginiana

Medeola virginiana L.

 

Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae (from Stearn’s Botanical Latin)
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassLiliopsidaMonocots (plants with a single seed leaf); includes the lily family
SubclassLiliidaeIncludes lilies, orchids, and many others
OrderLilialesIncludes lilies, tulips, trilliums, greenbriars, and others
FamilyLiliaceaeLilly family
GenusMedeolaFor the sorceress Medea, for attributed medicinal uses
Speciesvirginiana“From Virginia”

About plant names...

Indian cucumber-root is a North American native. It is a member of the lily family. Its edible root smells and tastes pretty much like cucumber, hence the name. Everything about this plant is cool! The orderly whorl of leaves near the bottom, its attractive yellow flowers atop a long stalk, the smaller whorl of three leaves near the top, the amazing bright red center of the whorl visible in the fall, and the blue-purple-black berries.

Identification: Indian cucumber-root is up to 8-16" (20-40 cm) high. About halfway up the bare stem is a whorl of 5 to 9 leaves. Each leaf is 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) long, and 1-2" (2.5-5 cm) wide. The leaves are almost completely flat, oriented upward. Then more bare stem, and on most plants a smaller upper whorl with 3 to 5 leaves. This configuration is unique. Yellow flowers ½-¾" (1.3-1.9 cm) around hang downward from the upper whorl. Large red-brown stems project from the backward-curled petals. Berries are shiny, purple-blue, almost metallic-looking. In the fall, leaves in the upper whorl turn red, but only near the stem; the red color persists even after the leaves turn brown.

Edibility: Indigenous Americans ate the roots of these plants, which have a taste similar to cucumber. However, some sources report that the roots act as a diuretic. In any case, indian cucumber-root is uncommon now, endangered in some areas, so please don’t eat it.

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

Flower (a), berry (b). The edible root is at bottom, left, with a creeper to form a new plant to the right. From The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, 1889; scanned by Clipart ETC.

Online References:

Medeola virginiana at Illinois Wildflowers

Medeola virginiana on Ontario Wildflowers

Medeola virginiana on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants

Medeola virginiana at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Medeola virginiana on Southeastern Flora, the Southeastern U.S. Plant Identification Resource

Medeola virginiana at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium

Medeola virginiana on eFloras

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/8/2010 · Jeff Smith Trail, Beaver Brook Association Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, NH
≈ 6 × 3½" (14 × 9.4 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

4/15/1979 · VA · By Tim Chandler

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

10/6/2016 · Pine Meadow Conservation Area, Ayer, MA

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/28/2013 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, MA
≈ 6 × 6" (16 × 14 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

10/5/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, MA
≈ 2 × 2" (5.9 × 6 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

Does anyone know what caused the dark-colored leaves? · 8/15/2010 · Willard Brook State Park, Blue Trail, Ashby, MA
≈ 11 × 9" (26 × 21 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

6/2/2010 · J. Harry Rich State Forest, Groton, MA
≈ 6 × 5" (14 × 13 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

10/5/2016 · Pine Meadow Conservation Area, Ayer, MA

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/14/2010 · Nashua River Boat Ramp, Rte. 119, Groton, MA
≈ 7 × 4½" (17 × 11 cm)

Medeola virginiana description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 7 Oct 2016.

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Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/7/2016 · Jeff Smith Trail, Jewett St., Pepperell, MA

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

6/2/2010 · J. Harry Rich State Forest, Groton, MA
≈ 6 × 3½" (15 × 9.2 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/2/2010 · Beaver Brook Association Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, NH
≈ 9 × 10" (23 × 24 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

6/2/2010 · J. Harry Rich State Forest, Groton, MA
≈ 10 × 15" (24 × 37 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

9/8/2014 · Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH
≈ 8 × 5" (19 × 13 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

A hartford fern (Lygodium palmatum) is wrapped around the indian cucumber-root. · 8/8/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, MA
≈ 8 × 12" (20 × 31 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/29/2015 · Mount Grace, Athol, MA
≈ 8 × 5" (19 × 13 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/10/2010 · Jeff Smith Trail, Beaver Brook Association Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, NH

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

9/4/2016 · Willard Brook State Park, Blue Trail, Ashby, MA

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

5/20/2014 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, NH
≈ 7 × 7" (16 × 16 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/8/2010 · Jeff Smith Trail, Beaver Brook Association Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, NH
≈ 2½ × 3½" (6.3 × 9.4 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

6/1/2013 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, NH
≈ 6 × 3½" (14 × 9.6 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/9/2015 · Beaver Brook Conservation Area
≈ 8 × 6" (20 × 14 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

9/8/2014 · Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH
≈ 6 × 7" (15 × 16 cm)

Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber-root, Indian Cucumber)

8/9/2015 · Beaver Brook Conservation Area
≈ 8 × 6" (20 × 14 cm)

Range:

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