Album of Botanical Watercolours
Primrose – Viola – Medicinal Plants
A pleasing artistic work, indicating a unique study, by an unidentified watercolorist who had a special interest in wild flowering plants useful in medicine and cuisine. Many of these are were used by colonial settlers and Indian tribes in North America. Some were associated with superstitions and folklore.
Highlights include a vivid red poppy, followed by numerous other cherished iconic flowers, such as the rose, daisy, water lily, Scottish thistle, sunflower, and a full page illustration of the ever popular foxglove, or digitalis. Beautiful watercolours at the beginning of the volume, all of which are identified, include the Primrose, Viola, Geranium, Veronica, Cinquefoil Potentilla, Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold), Geum urbanum, and Stitchwort. Among the plant groups represented and named here, all of which are herbaceous flowering plants, are Violaceae, Ranunculaceae, Primulaceae, and the Geum.
Geum urbanum, also known as wood avens, herb Bennet, colewort and St. Benedict’s herb, is used by modern herbalists use it to treat diarrhoea, heart disease, halitosis and mouth ulcers, and to prevent colic. In folklore, wood avens is credited with the power to drive away evil spirits, and to protect against rabid dogs and venomous snakes. It was associated with Christianity because its leaves grew in threes and its petals in fives (reminiscent of, respectively, the Holy Trinity and the Five Wounds).
Veronica americana, or speedweel, is edible and nutritious. Native Americans used Veronica species as an expectorant tea to alleviate bronchial congestion associated with asthma and allergies.
Anemone nemorosa is an early-spring flowering plant in the genus Anemone in the family Ranunculaceae. The plant contains poisonous chemicals that are toxic to animals and humans, but it has, and can be used as a medicine by informed professionals using due care. The first edition of the United States Dispensatory (1833) neglected all of our native species of Anemone, but the second edition (1834) gave a short notice of Anemone nemorosa, and continued it through subsequent editions.
Cinquefoil is edible and medicinal, young shoots and leaves are edible in salad or cooked as a pot herb. The plant contains large amounts of tannins making it very astringent. A medicinal infusion made from the root is used in alternative medicine as an astringent, antiseptic, and tonic, taken for dysentery and diarrhoea, periodotal disease, topical infections, and much more.
Leaves and roots of the Marsh-marigold can be eaten in moderation when well cooked, avoiding older parts of the plant which contain toxic elements. The whole plant is antispasmodic and can be used medicinally. The Okanagan and Thompson Indians used a poultice of chewed plant applied to inflamed wounds.