General: perennial from a long stout taproot and short, branched stem base, 10-120 cm tall, generally hairless.
Leaves: the basal ones numerous, firm, linear to obovate, the blade tapering rather gradually to the stalk or stalk base, the whole leaf entire and mostly 7-40 cm long by 7-55 mm wide, or often some of them with a few narrow, forward-pointing side lobes. Stem leaves opposite, in 2-6 pairs, smaller, nearly always pinnatifid with narrow segments, becoming stalkless or almost so upward.
Flowers: numerous in elongated compound clusters, with bisexual and unisexual flowers on separate plants. Corollas of perfect and male flowers mostly 2.5-3.5 mm long, those of female flowers scarcely 1 mm long. Corolla lobes not much shorter than the tube. Stamens not much protruding. The narrow calyx segments mostly 9-13.
Fruits: achenes, more or less ovate or ovate-oblong, 2.5-4.5 mm long, short-hairy or hairless, tipped with a tuft of feathery hairs.
Moist, sometimes saline meadows, and in mostly open and not too dry habitats, foothills to subalpine zone, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also from s. B.C. to e. WA, and s. to Mexico, and also from MN and IA to Ontario and OH.
The root of edible valerian is edible cooked. It requires a long steaming. The Indians would slow-bake it for about 2 days. It has a very strong and peculiar taste that is offensive to some people but agreeable to others. The root can be cooked and then dried and ground into a powder. Some caution is advised, see notes below on nerve stimulant properties. The raw roots are considered poisonous. The seed are said to be edible. No more details are given but the seeds of other members of this genus are parched and then eaten.
The whole plant, but especially the root, is antispasmodic, hypnotic, sedative, stimulant, urine-inducing, and has agents that relieve and remove gas from the digestive system, and powerful agents that affect, strengthen, or calm the nerves. The crushed root has been rubbed on parts affected by rheumatism, swollen bruises, painful bleeding cuts and wounds. The root has been used as a tapeworm medicine. It should be used with caution. The Gosiute Indians used the pounded roots rubbed on parts affected by rheumatism, or rubbed on skin for swollen bruises. The Menomini Indians used a poultice of pulverized root applied to painful, bleeding cuts and wounds. It was also applied to draw out inflammation of boils.
Our specimen belong to var. edulis Nutt. ex Torr. & Gray.
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