Synonyms: Other names: American liquorice Nomenclature: lepidota = scale like (roots) Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
General: aromatic, glandular plant, 30-120 cm tall. Growth habit: erect perennial from deep, extensive, woody rhizomes. Stems: leafy, sticky with stalked or stalkless glands.
Leaves: alternate, with 11-19 lance-shaped leaflets, 2-4 cm long, entire, glandular-dotted under magnification, abruptly sharp-pointed. Stipules small, linear, membranous, soon withering.
Flowers: yellowish-white, 10-15 mm long, numerous in dense, long-stalked, bracted, clusters from leaf axils. Banner only slightly reflexed from the narrow wings and the sharp-pointed keel. Calyx with 5 teeth, awl-shaped, the upper two partially fused.
Fruits: pods, brown, 10-15 mm long, stalkless, 1-celled, few-seeded, staying closed, covered with hooked bristles.
Disturbed and low ground, especially common along streams, in all parts of MT. Also from B.C. to Ontario and MN, s. to CA, AZ, AR, TX and n. Mexico.
The roots of wild licorice can be eaten, raw or cooked. They are long, sweet and fleshy, and when slow roasted are said to taste like sweet potatoes. They can be used as a flavoring in other foods as well and can also be chewed raw as a masticatory, making an excellent tooth cleaner and also very good for teething children. The root contains 6% glycyrrhizin, a substance that is 50 times sweeter than sugar. The tender young shoots can be eaten raw in the spring.
American liquorice was widely employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes who used it in the treatment of a range of diseases. All parts of the plant are medicinal, but the roots are the most active part. This species has properties similar to other liquorices which are widely used medicinally, though this species is rather neglected in modern literature. A tea of the root is used to speed the delivery of the placenta after childbirth, it is also used to treat coughs, diarrhea, chest pains, fevers in children, stomach aches etc. It is also used as a wash or poultice on swellings. The chewed root can be retained in the mouth as a treatment for toothache and sore throats. The juice from chewing raw roots was swallowed to strengthen the voice of singers. The mashed leaves are used as a poultice on sores, and leaves have been placed in the shoes to absorb moisture.
var. glutinosa (Nutt. ) Wats: Plant with stalked glands throughout the flower clusters and often also on the leaf stalks and main stem. Only in s. and w. MT.
var. lepidota: Plant with stalked glands only on the calyx. The most common in MT.