Monday, May 16, 2016

Senecaroot: Pink-purple grassland and forest wildflower

Senecaroot in Saskatchewan.  Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Senecaroot flowers   © SB
The pinkish-purple flowers of Senecaroot were a mystery to me at first, because most of the sources I checked showed these round clusters to be white or green.

But the stalks I photographed near Muenster, Saskatchewan, had a dark and distinct rosy hue — a colour I finally saw matched and mentioned in Royer-Dickinson's Plants of Alberta

In R-D's book, this plant's name is spelled as one word: Senecaroot, so that's the way I'm using it here, although I've also seen it as two words, Seneca Root, and with variants in spelling, such as Senega Root, which makes some sense as formal name is Polygala senega.  

The name is said to honour the Seneca people, who used it to heal snakebites, perhaps because of the root's resemblance to a snake — leading to its other names, Seneca Snakeroot and Rattlesnake Root. Wikipedia says the root was exported and marketed to Europe for use in pneumonia treatments, and it is still used in herbal remedies.

Senecaroot, a member of the Milkwort family, is found in moist grasslands and open forests. It's a native North America plant, apparently widely spread across Canada.

Some of the Senecaroot plants I found two summers ago were in a moist dip (some might call it a ditch) at the edge of a road, near a stream. Others were along the edge of a wooded area, in a patch of fertile soil with a range of other flowers — also near a drainage area. (Both pictured here were in the former location.)

Senecaroot in Saskatchewan.  Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Senecaroot flower © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Senecaroot, or Seneca Root
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan.
Photo Dates: July 14, 2014


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