Lomatium or desert parsley or Indian balsam is an official ‘at risk’ medicinal herb.
Used in the herbal trade for respiratory infections to control them before they turn in to complications. However few people know of this plant – probably just as well for reasons you will see later in this blog.
If you do use it – you do not need much – its a potent herb and taking excess will give you a rash just to teach you a lesson. Have it dispensed by your herbalist who knows how to offset this.
Its a plant that can live for more than a century in the wild. Rich Cech says of lomatium
“there is no such thing as sustainable harvest of wild Lomatium. The plant is not renewable within our lifetime”
That means it is scare to rare or endangered in its wild habitat and needs to be cultivated for future harvests. From earlier posts you would have read about my persistent and patient growing of this plant. Its certainly slow however I have found that more regular potting up and a larger pot have helped speed things up a lot.
Alas this season I was unable to gather any seeds. Hoping for flowers this coming late winter and I will be on the ball for those seeds to harvest.
Hopefully my humble efforts will show the way or provide encouragement so that we can cultivate this herb rather than harvest from the the wild.
Our plant photo this month is Trillium in flower – The botanists will note that all the plant parts are in threes – leaves sepals petals. This follows up my talk about it in an earlier post.
Dividing up the two pots of Trillium kurabashii in stock has now created over a dozen plants in one bathtub. This proves the ease of growing propagating this species. This is important knowledge to support the availability of this precious medicinal herb and move away from wild harvest.
In the Eastern United States of America harvesting is done by Rural folk who see this as a traditional activity and income sideline. Its hard work gathering enough material then to be paid very low rates by dealers.
Each harvest depletes the remaining endangered plant stocks – Its a vicious no win cycle. Rural poverty – Ignorance- exploitation of a natural resource.
A lady by the name of Jeanine Davis Associate Professor with North Carolina University has worked long on the education and research to make forest plant cultivation a profitable agricultural enterprise in Eastern USA.
Earlier in 2013 I purchased some Trillium erectum ( birth root – beth root) seeds from Lynne’s Rare Plants in the Blue mountains. Lynn had collected the seed rubbed off the fleshy material and stored them cool and moist. Normally trillium takes two years to show any seed leaf with the first year being focussed on root development.
Well here in spring was eight little plants with their initial leaves . No pricking out at this stage probably next year. Trillium erectum is one of the main medicinal species but careful reading shows that all trilliums have medicinal properties and were used when needed. This is plant is on the UpS plant list of endangered medicinal plants in North America.
A plant with very special usages and deserving of cultivation. Through building up expertise in growing these plants we move towards having cultivated sources of these plants for medicine
False Solomons seal has now germinated this spring (2013) after a two year wait. Smilacina racemosa is the scientific name and it is a little known herbal plant from North America. Medicinal usage is very similar to that of true Solomons seal. Growth is much slower though and just when I was thinking of buying more plants, earlier seed I had sown germinated. The plant flowers readily in a terminal raceme and has red berries which hang on the plant for along time.
The wait was two years so it will be a regular task each year now to harvest and sow the seed. Collect the berries when ripe and rubbing off the flesh place in a pot under your seed bench where it gets regular watering and you can forget about it for a year. A good reference for usage is Matthew Woods book on North American medicinal plants.
Having read about this herb in Richo Cinch’s book – Growing at risk medicinal herbs it went onto the must grow seed list. Seed was procured from Horizon herbs sown and in spring it promptly germinates. The seedlings were pricked out into larger pots (the root intact) to allow free root growth.
Everything is going along fine and the first true leaves appeared when the plants seemed to be dying off. I thought it was a fungal disease at first but I found in scratching around that the root was still there and the plants had gone into early dormancy.
This could have been triggered by a temporary lack of water or over hot temperatures (remember this is a high mountain plant). Anyway I stopped throwing out the pots and kept them to one side in the poly tunnel. That was over a year ago.
Well a couple of weeks ago in July little leaves poked up from the porting mix so they were alive and growing. But funny time of the year to be sprouting leaves the middle of an Australian winter!
Time to go back and read Richo Cech again about raising these plants
Well I just did and reporting back to you have found the reference explaining this behaviour. Richo says seedlings become vegetatively dormant by midsummer…..The plant then re-emerge in mid winter in mild areas and in the very early spring in very cold areas
Having joined United Plant Saver and received my first annual journal (Spring 2013) I was excited to see an article titled “Wu Wei Zi” the Chinese name of Schisandra by Glinda Watts.
Well my interest grew further when I realise that the article was talking about the American species of this famed tonic herb. I never knew that before and better yet there was the information that Horizon herbs have the seed for sale.
Immediately I was onto the web page and looking for Schisandra. Damn it was not there, conundrum number one. Patience and sure enough the seeds were listed. So off goes the order and the precious seeds arrive. It said ten seeds on the packet but really only nine were of any use. Number 10 was in pieces! A victim of the international mail journey.
Well the next conundrum – what pre treatment to give these seeds? Horizon mentioned to soak overnight sow and leave over winter for a slow but steady germination over a year. Having already delved deeply into Schisandra germination with the chinensis species I decided to give it the same treatment (see previous post on Schisandra) with an added twist of watering with seaweed solution initially to boost germination. So the waiting game continues through the pre treatment process leading to germination.
Growing these plants teaches you patience. Its interesting that the older I become the more patient I am with these herbs that have long germination times. It becomes an interesting challenge rather than a frustration.