This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Small, oblong-tubular, pure white or yellowish, about 1/4 in. long, set obliquely in along, wand-like, spiked raceme, at the end of a slender scape 2 to 3 ft. tall. Perianth somewhat bell-shaped, 6-pointed, rough or mealy outside; 6 stamens, 1 inserted below each point; style 3-cleft at tip. (A Southern form or distinct species (?) has yellower, fragrant flowers.) Leaves: From the base, lance-shaped, 2 to 6 in. long, thin, pale yellowish green, in a spreading cluster.
Preferred Habitat - Dry soil; roadsides; open, grassy, sandy woods.
Flowering Season - May - July.
Distribution - -From Ontario and the Mississippi eastward to the Atlantic.
Herb gatherers have searched far and wide for this plant's bitter, fibrous root, because of its supposed medicinal virtues. What decoctions have not men swallowed from babyhood to old age to get relief from griping colic! In partial shade, colonies of the tufted yellow-green leaves send up from the centre gradually lengthening spikes of bloom that may finally attain over a foot in length. The plant is not unknown in borders of men's gardens. The Greek word (a/etron - meal) from which its generic title is derived, refers to the rough, granular surface of the little oblong white flower.