Synonyms: Other names: pipsissewa Nomenclature: umbellata = with umbel(s) Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
General: evergreen, erect shrub, 10-30 cm tall, hairless or nearly so throughout, the stems but slightly woody, from spreading rhizomes.
Leaves: in whorls of 3-8 on stem, not in basal rosettes, leathery, persistent, oblanceolate to oblanceolate-obovate, tapered to narrowly pointed bases, blades 3-7 cm long, 0.5-2.5 cm broad, sharply toothed, dark green and glossy above, pale beneath, the stalks 3-7 mm long.
Flowers: pinkish to somewhat rose, nodding, waxy, mostly 3-8 in an erect cluster raised on a 5-10 cm long stalk above the leaves, the individual flower stalks usually finely short-hairy and often somewhat glandular. Sepals separate nearly to the base, small-toothed or with slightly irregular edges. Petals 5-7 mm long, round, concave, spreading or slightly bent back. Stamens 10, the much swollen base of the filaments hairy on the edges but not otherwise.
Fruits: round capsules, 5-7 mm broad, 5-celled, opening from the tip along the middle of the cells.
Woods, especially under conifers, foothills to montane zone, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also from AK to s. CA, e. to the Rockies of CO and to e. U.S., and in Eurasia.
The leaves of Prince's Pine can be nibbled, brewed into a tea or used as a flavoring in root beer. They have a delicious scent and flavor. An extract of the leaves is used to flavor candy and soft drinks. In Mexico the herb is used in the preparation of 'navaitai', an alcoholic beverage produced from sprouted maize. A tea can be made from an infusion of the stems and roots.
Pipsissewa was much used by many tribes of native North American Indians to induce sweating and treat fevers, including typhus. The plant contains hydroquinones which have a pronounced disinfectant effect within the urinary tract and modern day herbalism mainly employs the plant to treat urinary problems such as cystitis and urethritis. The whole plant is antibacterial, and has agents that induce urination, cause tissue to contract, induce sweating, cause reddening or irritation when applied to the skin, that act as a stimulant and tonic, and that gradually restore health. A tea is used in the treatment of various problems related to the urinary system, it is also prescribed for more serious conditions such as kidney stones and gonorrhea. A decoction is very efficacious in the treatment of skin diseases. Used externally, the fresh leaves are rubefacient and internally they are of great use in cardiac and kidney diseases, chronic rheumatism and scrofula. Only the leaves are officinal, though the whole plant is often used. The plant is loaded with the biologically active compounds arbutin, sitosterol and ursolic acid. Arbutin hydrolyzes to the toxic urinary antiseptic hydroquinone. The plant contains glycosides and an essential oil that are used as an astringent and tonic. The plant is harvested when in flower, and the leaves on their own can be harvested during the growing season. They are dried for later use. A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves. It is used in the treatment of inflammations of the urinary system.
Our specimen belong to ssp. occidentalis (Rydb.) Hulten.
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