Flower of the Day: Pilewort

aka fireweed, burnweed; Erechtites hieraciifolius; Asteraceae (aster family)

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In case you were wondering, the word “wort” comes from the Old English wyrt, meaning “plant” (usually herbaceous).  Used as a suffix on a plant name it often signified something medicinal – so, spleenwort for spleen disorders, motherwort for uterine disorders, lungwort for lung disorders, lousewort caused lice infestations, and so on.

So, yes, pilewort was once used to treat piles, aka hemorrhoids.  According to the Doctrine of Signatures, a plant’s use was found in its form.  I don’t know what aspect of E. hieracifolia made the ancients think it resembles hemorrhoids, but there it is.

This is a weedy looking plant that grows up to eight feet tall in weedy places (eg, the mown edges of roadways), but it is indeed a native, and the only native in its genus found in the US (everywhere except the arid West).

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The picture above shows what appears to be a bud, but that is actually considered a full flower.  When the seeds are developed, those green bracts pop open and the seeds are dispersed on the wind.

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