Tall perennial herbs, with thick short poisonous rootstocks, the leaves mostly broad, clasping, strongly veined and plaited, the stem and inflorescence pubescent. Flowers greenish or yellowish or purple, rather large, polygamous or monoecious, on short stout pedicels in large terminal panicles. Perianth-segments 6, glandless or nearly so, not clawed, sometimes adnate to the base of the ovary. Stamens opposite the perianth-segments and free from them, short, mostly curved. Anthers cordate, their sacs confluent. Ovary ovoid; styles 3, persistent. Capsule 3-lobed, 3-celled, the cavities several-seeded. Seeds very flat, broadly winged. [Ancient name of the Hellebore.]

About 12 species, natives of the north temperate zone. Besides the following another occurs in southern United States and 3 in western North America. Type species: Veratrum album L.

Flowers yellowish green; perianth-segments pubescent, ciliate.


V. viride.

Flowers purple or greenish; perianth-segments glabrous or nearly so.

Flowers purple; pedicels short.


V. Woodii.

Flowers greenish; pedicels filiform.


V. parviflorum.

1. Veratrum viride Ait. American White

Hellebore. Indian Poke. Poke-Root

Fig. 1237

Veratrum viride Ait. Hort. Kew. 3: 422. 1789.

Rootstock erect, 2'-3' long, I'-2' thick, with numerous fibrous-fleshy roots. Stem stout, 2°-8° tall, very leafy; leaves acute, the lower broadly oval or elliptic, 6'-12' long, 3'-6' wide, short-petioled or sessile, sheathing, the upper successively narrower, those of the inflorescence small; panicle 8'-2° long, densely many-flowered, its lower branches spreading or somewhat drooping; pedicels 1"-3" long, mostly shorter than the bracts; flowers yellowish green, 8"-12" broad; perianth-segments oblong or oblanceo-late, ciliate-serrulate, twice as long as the stamens; ovary glabrous; capsule 10"-12" long, 4"-6" thick, many-seeded; seed 4"-5" long.

In swamps and wet woods, New Brunswick and Quebec to Ontario, south to Georgia, Tennessee and Minnesota. Ascends to 4000 ft. in the Adirondacks. Big, Swamp or False hellebore. Duck-retten. Earth-gall. Devil's-bite. Bear-corn. Poor Annie. Itch-weed. Tickle-weed. May-July.

Hellebore Indian Poke Poke Root 1237

2. Veratrum Woodii Robbins. Wood's False Hellebore

Fig. 1238

Veratrum Woodii Robbins in Wood, Classbook, Ed. 41, 557 1855-

Rootstock short, erect. Stem slender, 2°-5° tall; leaves mostly basal, oblong or oblanceolate, often 1° long, 2'-4' wide, narrowed into sheathing petioles about as long as the blade; upper leaves small and linear-lanceolate; panicle open, 1°-2° long, its branches ascending; pedicels shorter than the perianth, about as long as the bracts; flowers 6'-8" broad, purple; perianth-segments oblanceolate, obtuse, nearly or quite glabrous, entire, little longer than the stamens; ovary pubescent when young, becoming glabrous; capsule 6"-8" long, few-seeded.

In dry woods and on hills, southern Indiana to Missouri. Indian poke-weed. June-July.

2 Veratrum Woodii Robbins Wood s False Hellebore 12382 Veratrum Woodii Robbins Wood s False Hellebore 1239

3. Veratrum Parviflorum S. Wats. Small-Flowered Veratrum

Fig. 1239

V. parviflorum Michx. Fl. Bor. Am. 2: 250. 1803. Melanthium parviflorum S. Wats. Proc. Am. Acad. 14: 276. 1879.

Stem slender, 2°-5° tall. Lower leaves broadly oval or oblanceolate, acute, 4'-8' long, 1 1/2'-4' wide, with narrow sheathing bases, the upper narrowly linear-lanceolate, acuminate; panicle 1°-2° long, loose and open, its very slender branches divergent or ascending; pedicels filiform, much longer than the bracts, somewhat longer than the perianth-segments; flowers 4"-6" broad, greenish; perianth-segments oblanceolate, glandless, short-clawed or sessile; capsule 5"-6" long, the cavities 4-6-seeded; seeds 3 '-4" long.

Dry woods, mountains of Virginia to South Carolina. June-Aug.