Root. - Tuberous, shaped somewhat like a cucumber, with a suggestion of its flavor. Stem. - Slender, from one to three feet high, at first clothed with wool. Leaves. - In two whorls on the flowering plants, the lower of five to nine oblong, pointed leaves set close to the stem, the upper usually of three or four much smaller ones. Flowers. - Greenish-yellow, small, clustered, recurved, set close to the upper leaves. Perianth. - Of three sepals and three petals, oblong and alike. Stamens. - Six, reddish-brown. Pistil. - With three stigmas, long, recurved, and reddish-brown. Fruit. - A purple berry.
Plate XLI. Rootstock. - Fruit. - Indian Cucumber-Root. - M. Virginiana
One is more apt to pause in September to note the brilliant foliage and purple berries of this little plant than to gather the drooping inconspicuous blossoms for his bunch of wood-flowers in June. The generic name is after the sorceress Medea, on account of its supposed medicinal virtues, of which, however, there seems to be no record.
The tuberous rootstock has the flavor, and something the shape, of the cucumber, and was probably used as food by the Indians. It would not be an uninteresting study to discover which of our common wild plants are able to afford pleasant and nutritious food; in such a pursuit many of the otherwise unattractive popular names would prove suggestive.