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Rehmannia glutinosa

Rehmannia glutinosa

An entry written by Alexis today:

Pictured in this photo taken by Daniel is the flower of Rehmannia glutinosa, from a plant growing in the UBC Botanical Garden. This genus is commonly referred to as Chinese foxglove.

Rehmannia glutinosa is a perennial herb native to China. It grows by trails and on mountain slopes, and can also be seen springing up through cracks in the pavement and walls in the Forbidden City, as noted by Lancaster in Plantsman's Paradise: Travels in China (2008). In the UBC Botanical Garden, a few small patches of the herb can be found in an unshaded area near the garden entrance. Every inch of the plant appears to be densely covered in hairs, which feel just as soft and fuzzy as they look. The flowers are neither fragrant nor eye-catching in colour but I found their shape uniquely endearing, as they resemble small hairy trumpets suitable perhaps for some tiny orchestra.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Rehmannia glutinosa is called Di Huang and has a multitude of purposes. When bruised, the leaves are a remedy for eczema and psoriasis. Fever, coughs and bleeding are just a few of the symptoms treated with the roots of the plant; they are also used in treating cancer and anemia. Rehmannia glutinosa is also one of the ingredients in the most popular women's tonic in China, "Four Things Soup", the other ingredients of which are Angelica sinensis, Paeonia lactiflora and Ligusticum wallichii. Apparently the roots are also edible, though I am wary of anything that supposedly requires being boiled nine times before ingesting.


...Alexis, exactly, I thought..'fuzzy trumpets'..!

I doubt I'd care to boil something nine times. Even once. :-) Little trumpets. Wonder do hummingbirds like this plant?

Boiling is sometimes required to denature proteins which may be harmful.


Daniel, et al,as soon as I saw the flower I knew this was a gesneriad - family Gesneriaceae so I did a check on the "World Checklist of Gesneriaceae" from the Smithsonian Department of Botany and there it was verified with a reference to locations in China where it can be found and one publication on the specific species R. glutinosa.


Gesneriaceae - interesting! It's crazy how jarbled up this group of plant families is. I had a systematics professor who cried, I believe, when they began to split up her favourite family: Scrophulariaceae. On appearance, I can certainly see how it might be placed within Orobanchaceae. Does anyone know if these fuzzy trumpets are known to parasitize anything?

Well, as per IPNI Rehmannia is included in Scrophulariaceae. As per Tropicos (MOBOT) it is in Orobanchaceae. As per Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (text directly copied here): The limits of Scrophulariaceae have long been problematic (Thieret 1967 for a summary; Olmstead 2002 for a readable account of the implications of the findings of molecular data). Rahmanzadeh et al. (2004), Albach et al. (2005a) and Oxelman et al. (2005) are clarifying the contents of the separate clades that used to be subsumed in Scrophulariaceae s. l. (see also B. Bremer et al. 2002; Tank et al. 2006.) Members of the classical Scrophulariaceae are now also to be found in Plantaginaceae and Orobanchaceae (these contain the bulk of the taxa that have moved), as well as Stilbaceae, Phrymaceae, and Linderniaceae.

Marilyn - my first gut reaction to seeing the flower was also "ahh, a gesneriad!"

Then I dug further, and had a brief email chat with Mark Egger about the taxonomic tree for the genus and this genus straddles the line between being a scroph and an orobanch.

alexis tis the summer soltisce the little folk will be drinking
and playing the trumpets all night long tis the longest night

i think flowers need a lawyer you just pick them up give
them to another family tell them they don't know thier
own name like the little inch worm when the world went metric

I just saw what I think is a yellow one in my driveway and wondered what genus or species it belonged to. just starting to learn the nuances of botany. am more of a medical person; MD, and now want to know more, much more, abut medicinal plants. had a surgery and my body is telling me, watch out for western medicine.

Rehmannia bounced back and forth between Scrophulariaceae and Gesneriaceae for decades because of over-reliance on a single character (locule number) in defining the two families. It finally came to rest in Scrophulariaceae but that family as traditionally circumscribed is very unnatural and is now breaking up into numerous smaller families. The latest molecular results place Rehmannia near Orobanchaceae but not definitely within that family. The World Checklist of Gesneriaceae lists the genus only because of its historical placement in the family, with a note that the genus is excluded from Gesneriaceae.

Single-character taxonomy usually produces very bad classifications, and Scrophulariaceae and related families have especially fallen victim to this. Paulownia was in a similar position, bouncing back and forth between Scrophulariaceae and Bignoniaceae, again because of reliance on a single character (in this case, presence or absence of endosperm in the seed). It apparently never occurred to anybody that they were asking the wrong question, and that maybe it didn't belong in either family, until recent molecular work showed exactly that and Paulownia is now placed in its own family, Paulowniaceae. (Actually the family Paulowniaceae was created by a Japanese botanist in 1949, but most western botanists ignored his conclusion that Paulownia deserved its own family.)

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