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Aristolochia serpentaria - L.

Common Name Virginia Snakeroot
Family Aristolochiaceae
USDA hardiness 7-10
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    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
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.

 

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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 June to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Flies.
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.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

None known

References

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].

References

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An important new book from PFAF. It focuses on the attributes of plants suitable for food forests, what each can contribute to a food forest ecosystem, including carbon sequestration, and the kinds of foods they yield. The book suggests that community and small-scale food forests can provide a real alternative to intensive industrialised agriculture, and help to combat the many inter-related environmental crises that threaten the very future of life on Earth.

Read More

FOOD FOREST PLANTS

Other Uses

None known

Special Uses

References

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].

References

Temperature Converter

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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].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Aristolochia clematitisBirthwortPerennial0.7 5-9  LMHSNM02 
Aristolochia contortaMa Dou LingPerennial1.5 -  LMHSNM13 
Aristolochia debilisMa Dou LingPerennial1.0 7-10  LMHSNM13 
Aristolochia fangchiGuan Fang ChiClimber0.0 -  LMHSNM02 
Aristolochia kaempferi Perennial1.0 -  LMHSNM02 
Aristolochia macrophyllaPipevine, Dutchman's PipeClimber7.0 5-8 FLMHSNDM01 
Aristolochia molissima Climber1.0 -  MSNM02 
Aristolochia reticulataTexas Dutchman's PipePerennial0.4 -  MSNM02 
Aristolochia rotundaSnakerootPerennial0.6 -  MSNM02 
Aristolochia tomentosaDutchman's Pipe, Woolly dutchman's pipePerennial10.0 7-10 FLMHSNDM02 
Asarum arifolium Perennial0.2 6-9  LMHFSM01 
Asarum blumei Perennial0.2 6-9  LMHFSM01 
Asarum canadenseSnake Root, Canadian wildginger, Canada Wild Ginger, Wild GingerPerennial0.1 3-9 SLMHFSM333
Asarum caudatumWild Ginger, British Columbia wildgingerPerennial0.1 6-10 FLMHFSM32 
Asarum dilatatum Perennial0.0 -  LMHFSM20 
Asarum europaeumAsarabacca, European Wild GingerPerennial0.1 4-8 SLMHFSM02 
Asarum forbesiiDu HengPerennial0.2 -  LMHFSM01 
Asarum heterotropoides Perennial0.2 -  LMHFSM02 
Asarum maximum Perennial0.5 6-9  LMHFSM01 
Asarum nipponicum Perennial0.1 -  LMHFSM10 
Asarum reflexum Perennial0.2 5-9  LMHFSM20 
Asarum shuttleworthiiAsarabacca, Mottled Wild GingerPerennial0.1 5-9 FLMHFSM202
Asarum sieboldiiWild GingerPerennial0.2 -  LMHFSM02 
Asarum splendensChinese Wild GingerPerennial0.2 5-9 SLMFSDM303
Asarum takaoi Perennial0.1 -  LMHFSM10 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.

 

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Readers comment

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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