Monday, March 12, 2012

Saving medicinal plants

Hydrastis canadensis image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

All the warm weather we've had lately has given me a full-blown case of Spring Fever. During the workday, it's hard to keep myself from staring out the window and daydreaming about plans for my garden. And all weekend I poured over catalogs looking at plants and garden ornaments, making lists of those I’d like to add to my perennial and herb beds. 

One of the things I’m keeping in mind this year as I choose plants is something I recently read in Rosemary Gladstar’s “Family Herbal“ book. In this amazing guide to natural therapies and herbal remedies the author discusses the work of United Plant Savers, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and cultivation of native medicinal plants and their habitats. 

UpS has compiled “at risk” and “to watch” lists of herbs that are endangered; though the author notes that, in some cases, an “at risk” plant could be abundant in one of its native bio-regions and rare in others. I’ve listed the “at risk” herbs below, though the list dates to 2001 when the book was published. There may very well be more plants on the list by now. If you'd like more information, write to United Plant Savers at PO Box 98, East Barre, VT 05649.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racenose)
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
Eyebright (Euphrasia spp.)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Helonia root (Chamaelirium luteum)
Kava-kava (Piper methysticum)
Lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium spp.)
Lomatium (Lomatium dissectum)
Osha (Ligusticum spp.)
Peyote (Lophophora williamsli)
Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra)
Sundew (Drosera spp.)
Trillium (Trillium spp.)
True unicorn (Aletris farinosa)
Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula)
Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria)
Wild yam (Dioscorea spp.)


  1. I love Trillium and have some in my garden which was given to me. Unfortunately people go out and dig them up in the woods, I'm sure that contributes to their at risk status. Thanks for sharing and stopping by, Laura

    1. Yes, I'm sure that contributes to the problem. Trillium is one of the plants on the list that does well in my area, so I will be planting some.

  2. Hi, You have a nice blog, I am following now, thanks for visiting me..keep visiting dear..

  3. Great post .. very interesting to see such popular herbs as echinacea on the list! another good reason to try using our local prolific weeds first, rather than resorting straight away to more 'exotic' plants?

  4. I had no idea .Thank you for sharing. xo


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