Fig. 100. -Bladder Campion (Silene lati-folia). X 1/3
Habitat: Along roadsides and railways; in old pastures and on waste ground.
In pioneer days, when the art of soap-making had not approached its present excellence, housewives knew that fine woolens and silks could be well cleansed with a slippery, sudsy solution made by bruising the mucilaginous stems and leaves or young rootstocks of this plant in water. For this purpose a patch of it was kept handy, and hence its names Soapwort and Fuller's Herb. The cylindrical roots - not the stolons - are used in medicine, and are worth five to ten cents a pound in the drug market when collected in late autumn or early spring, carefully cleansed, and dried. (Fig. 101.) Stems in tufts, one to two feet tall, stout and smooth, with swollen joints. Leaves opposite, long ovate, three-nerved, pointed, rather thick, smooth, sessile or with short, broad petioles. Flowers pink, usually double, in large, dense, terminal, corymbose clusters; calyx tubular, five-toothed; stamens ten; styles two; Ovary one-celled or sometimes incompletely two- or four-celled. Capsule oblong, conic, opening by four short teeth at apex. Seeds rough, dark slate-color or dull black, shortened kidney-shaped; they contain a poisonous property called saponin, like that which makes dangerous the seeds of the related Cow Cockle and Corn Cockle.
If the patches are small, grubbing out is the best remedy. Caustic soda or hot brine is effectual, but the ground will be barren until the chemicals have leached away. Constant cutting of the green tops will finally starve the rootstocks, if continued without cessation for two seasons.
Fig. 101. - Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis). X 1/3.