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Aristolochia serpentaria - L.                
                 
Common Name Virginia Snakeroot
Family Aristolochiaceae
Synonyms
Known Hazards We have no specific details for this species but most members of this genus have poisonous roots and stems[179]. The plant contains aristolochic acid, this has received rather mixed reports on its toxicity. According to one report aristolochic acid stimulates white blood cell activity and speeds the healing of wounds, but is also carcinogenic and damaging to the kidneys[254]. Another report says that it is an active antitumour agent but is too toxic for clinical use[218]. Another report says that aristolochic acid has anti-cancer properties and can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiotherapy and that it also increases the cellular immunity and phagocytosis function of the phagocytic cells[176].
Habitats Rich dry woods, usually on calcareous soils[21, 43].
Range South-eastern N. America - Connecticut to Florida, west to Texas and Ohio.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Aristolochia serpentaria is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8. It is in flower from Jun to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Aristolochia serpentaria Virginia Snakeroot


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AbbotV1Tab03AA.jpg
Aristolochia serpentaria Virginia Snakeroot
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. Vol. 1: 645.
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Dappled Shade;
Edible Uses                                         
None known
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antidote;  Antiinflammatory;  Bitter;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Expectorant;  Febrifuge;  Odontalgic;  Stimulant;  Tonic.

The Virginia snakeroot is attracting increasing interest for its medicinal virtues and as a result is becoming uncommon in the wild. It merits consideration for cultivation in forest areas[222]. It is used in a number of proprietary medicines for treating skin, circulatory and kidney disorders[238]. The plant contains aristolochic acid which, whilst stimulating white blood cell activity and speeding the healing of wounds, is also carcinogenic and damaging to the kidneys[254]. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[238]. The root is antidote, anti-inflammatory, bitter tonic, diaphoretic, diuretic and stimulant[1, 2, 4, 21, 46, 200]. Traditionally it was chewed in minute doses or used as a weak tea to promote sweating, stimulate the appetite and promote expectoration[4, 222]. The native North Americans considered it to have analgesic properties and used an infusion internally to treat rheumatism, pain - but especially sharp pains in the breast, and as a wash for headaches[257]. This plant should be used with caution, it is irritating in large doses and can cause nausea, griping pains in the bowels etc[4, 21, 222]. It should only be used internally under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[238]. The bruised root is placed in hollow teeth for treating toothache[207]. An extract of the root can be drunk to relieve stomach pains[207]. The boiled root, or a decoction of the whole plant, can be used to treat fevers[213]. The chewed root or crushed leaves was applied to snakebites[207, 213]. This species was the most popular snakebite remedy in N. America[213]. It has also been applied externally to slow-healing wounds and in the treatment of pleurisy[238].
Other Uses
None known
Cultivation details                                         
Prefers a well-drained loamy soil, rich in organic matter, in sun or semi-shade[1, 200], but succeeds in ordinary garden soil[134]. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c[200]. Most species in this genus have malodorous flowers that are pollinated by flies[200]. The flowers of this plant are sometimes cleistogomous[235].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Pre-soak stored seed for 48 hours in hand-hot water and surface sow in a greenhouse[134]. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 3 months at 20°c[134]. Stored seed germinates better if it is given 3 months cold stratification at 5°c[200]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Division in autumn[200]. Root cuttings in winter[200].
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
43200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[43]Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany.
A bit dated but good and concise flora of the eastern part of N. America.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[134]Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[207]Coffey. T. The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers.
A nice read, lots of information on plant uses.
[213]Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
[222]Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
[235]Britton. N. L. Brown. A. An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada
Reprint of a 1913 Flora, but still a very useful book.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
[257]Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
Elaine Herring Thu Jul 10 2008
I was wondering if Virginia snakeroot is common in NE NC? I am interested in the plant because the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly will use this plant as a host plant to lay eggs on.They also use Dutchman's pipevine also. I have only seen a few pipevine swallowtail butterflies where I live and would love to cultivate some to increase the butterfly population. Is the native plant plentiful in NE NC? Any information you can give me about the plants and where to look for them would be wonderful. Thank You
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Subject : Aristolochia serpentaria  
             

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