It is a strange, aloof plant, the blue cohosh, as it stands in the damp April woods. There is nothing else quite like it, this member of the Barberry family, for although it is related to mayapples, barberries, and Oregon grape, it seems to have little which connects it in appearance with these dissimilar plants.

Blue Cohosh (Papoose Root. Squawroot).

Caulophyllum thalictroides (L.) Michx.

April-May Woods.

Up through the damp leafmold of the northern woods there rises a single pale, downy stem from a knotty root. The stem bears a single leaf or two, each of which actually appears to be three groups of three leaflets much resembling those of meadow rue or Thalictrum, hence the specific name. The true leaf, however, is so divided that it appears to be more than one. Above it stands a loose cluster of lowers. They are a pale, brassy, greenish lavender with six blunt sepals and a curious center composed of six small, pouched petals. There are six stamens and a single pistil. Aloof and tall among the April flowers covering the forest floor, the plant of blue cohosh stands alone.

In August, in place of the flowers, there is a loose cluster of military-blue fruits which are soon eaten by birds. The leaves by this time have hardened and have grown dark green, but still are no more abundant than before.

Papoose root, blue cohosh, squawroot, blueberry - these all are names given to Caulophyllum thalictroides. Every one of its names has meaning. Caulophyllum means stem-leaf, since the stem seems to form a stalk for the great compound leaf. The medicinal root was used by the Indians as an antispasmodic in infant convulsions - papoose root - and as an aid in quick childbirth - squawroot. The bright blue fruits easily gave it the name of blueberry.