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Results tagged “ranunculaceae”

Dec 21, 2010: Anemone richardsonii

Anemone richardsonii

Anemone richardsonii is the only yellow-flowered species found in northern climates. The occurrence map from the USDA PLANTS database is somewhat deceptive, as it shows Alaska and most of Canada. While accurate, it isn't as precise as the distribution map for Anemone richardsonii from the Flora of North America, which demonstrates far more clearly that this is a species of northern climates. In addition to northern North America, yellow thimbleweed or yellow anemone is also native to Greenland and parts of Eurasia.

Found in somewhat open areas (FNA notes: thickets, moist woods, meadows, slopes; 20-2200 m), the plant in today's photograph was growing in a wet seep area at lower elevations of Pink Mountain in northeastern British Columbia. The population of 75 or so plants was the only one we noticed during the 4-5 days I was there. Another botanical description of the species is available from the Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and many more images from E-Flora British Columbia.

Its specific epithet, richardsonii, is in honour of Scotland-born surgeon-naturalist Sir John Richardson--a fascinating and accomplished person. In addition to seemingly having every fifth species of plant in northern Canada named after him (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there are many), as an icthyologist he described 43 genera and over 200 species of fish. He was the surgeon-naturalist on the first two of Franklin's expeditions to the northern reaches of North America; when Franklin's third (ill-fated) expedition did not return, he traveled by canoe from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to the mouth of Mackenzie River--a distance of 3800 km / 2350 miles as the crow flies--in 3 months. In 1848. At age 60. Yet more impressive, in order to see the Arctic spring bird migration in 1827 on the Saskatchewan River, he walked from Great Slave Lake to Fort Carlton (where he was to meet his assistant, Drummond). This was a distance of over 1450km / 900 miles. He made the journey in 50 days. From December 25 to February 12. Read more: C. Stuart Houston's account of Sir John Richardson in Arctic Profiles (PDF).

Dec 6, 2010: Coptis laciniata

Today's entry continues the medicinal plants diversity series, though I've not been able to find a reference to medicinal use of this particular species. However, other species in the genus are used in treatments (due to the same compounds in the roots), so it isn't a stretch to imagine it has medicinal potential.

I became aware of the medicinal uses of Coptis while researching economic values of members of the buttercup family for my presentation to the Native Plant Society of BC last week. Modern economic uses for this family, beyond ornamentals, are few and far between, but the genus Coptis stands out. As one example, an eastern Himalayan relative of today's species, Coptis teeta, is a prized Ayurvedic herb. Known as Mishmi (from the Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh), its roots contain berberine and it is used to treat gastrointestinal complaints and malarial infections. Due to a combination of deforestation and overharvesting, however, Coptis teeta has been brought close to extinction. Other members of the genus have also been used medicinally by their respective local indigenous peoples, including Coptis chinensis (China), Coptis japonica (southeast Asia) and Coptis trifolia (North America) (ref: The Cultural History of Plants, ed. Prance and Nesbitt, but also see: WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants - Volume 1, pp. 105-144).

Discussion on the pros and cons of berberine as a medicinal compound are difficult to find in specific relation to Coptis, but another member of the Ranunculaceae makes a good substitute. The increasingly-threatened goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has been somewhat well-studied as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory due to its high concentrations of berberine; you can read about some of the evidence (or lack thereof) via the University of Maryland Medical Center: Hydrastis canadensis, or the Dietary Supplement Database from the University of California, San Diego: Hydrastis canadensis. As an aside, the reasons for the decline of Hydrastis canadensis in its native range of eastern North America are unsustainable harvesting and mountaintop removal mining.

Coptis laciniata is commonly known as Oregon goldthread, and this low-growing perennial is found in wet coniferous forests on the west side of coastal mountain ranges from Washington to California. For additional photographs, see the Burke Museum's entry for Coptis laciniata or CalPhoto's Coptis laciniata image collection.

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