Claviceps purpurea,

(Fries) Tulasne.

The carefully dried sclerotium, replacing the grain of rye, Secale cereale, with not more than 5 p. c. of seeds, fruits, foreign matter.

Habitat: Eastern countries, Russia; cultivated in Spain, Germany, France.

Syn. Ergot of Rye, Spurred Rye, Cockspur Rye, Smut of Rye, Mother of Rye, Hornseed, Secale Clavatum, Mater Secalis, Clavus Secalinus; Fr. Ergot de Seigle, Seigle Ergote (noir), B16 Cornu; Ger. Secale cornutum, Mutterkorn, Zapfen-, Hunger-korn.

Er'go-ta. L. fr. Fr. ergot, argot, a spur - i. e., its spur shape.

Clav'i-ceps. L. clava, a club - i. e., shape of the mycelium or sclerotium.

Pur-pu're-a. L. purpureas, purple colored - i. e., the purple claviceps - color of the sclerotium.

Scle-ro'ti-um. L. fr. Gr.

Ergota Ergot 97

hard - i. e., a hard body formed by certain fungi.

Se-ca'le. L. secare, to cut, or Celtic, sega, a sickle - i. e., grain curved like a sickle, or the grain has to be cut down.

Ce-re-a'le. L. cerealis, cultivated grain.

Plant. - Rye: culm 1.5-2 M. (5-0°) high; leaves .25-.5 M. (10-20') long, upper surface rough; spike 10-15 Cm. (4-6') long, 2-sided, 2-flowered spikelet, June; fruit July; seed (grain) oblong, grooved on upper side, hairy at summit, brownish. Sclerotium (ergot), cylindraceous, obscurely 3-angled, fusiform, obtuse, somewhat curved, 1-4.5 Cm. (2/5-1 4/5') long, 3-5 Mm. (1/8-1/5') thick, purplish-black, longitudinally furrowed; fracture short, pinkish; odor peculiar, disagreeable, free from mustiness; taste oily, disagreeable. Powder, grayish-brown: microscopically - chiefly fragments of false parenchyma of compacted hyphae, few of outer layer of the sclerotium; mounts in hydrated chloral T. S. or sulphuric acid show many globules of fixed oil and yellowish, reddish fragments. Tests: 1. Bruise, add hot water - no ammoniacal or rancid odor. 2. Shake 1 Gm. + water (20) + 1 drop of hydrochloric acid, make 4 Ml. (Cc.) alkaline with ammonia water, shake out with 10 Ml. (Cc.) of ether; underlay 5 Ml. (Cc.) of this ethereal solution with 2 Ml. (Cc.) of sulphuric acid - blue ring at zone of contact. Ergot that breaks with a sharp snap, devoid of pinkish fracture, hard, brittle between the teeth, odorless and tasteless, should be rejected. Should be dried at 70° C, (158° F.) before storing, and kept dark, in tightly-closed containers, adding occasionally a few drops of chloroform or carbon tetrachloride to prevent insect attack; usually unfit for use after a year. Solvent: diluted alcohol. Dose, gr. 15-60 (1-4 Gm.).

Commercial. - Rye is to Russia what corn is to America, its bread approximating nearer that of wheat than any other grain. The origin of the sclerotium is the biennial thal-lophyte (fungus) Claviceps purpurea, parasitic during moist seasons on the ovary of grains, grasses, sedges - Carex, Cyperus species, etc. (that of rye alone being collected for medicine), - the development having three stages: 1, mycelial - when blooming a few ovaries in some grain heads become covered with sweet, yellow mucus, honey-dew of rye, whose disagreeable odor repels bees, but attracts ants, beetles, and flies - the once supposed cause of the diseased grain, but now known only to aid its dissemination and thereby the spreading of the disease; the filamentous cells (hyphae), collectively forming the mycelium, spread over the lower portion of the ovary and cause decomposition of ovarian tissue, production of honey-dew (sugar), and innumerable reproductive bodies (conidia) imbedded therein; 2, sclerotial - when this conidial formation is at its height the mycelium ceases its superficial growth, presses into the ovary and begins to form a denser tissue at its base and central portion, and, growing upward, ruptures it and develops into a purplish-black, horn-like body, sclerotium (official ergot) - the dormant or resting form of the fungus; 3, thalloidic - when in the following spring ergot sprouts in many heads (stromata), consuming its fixed oil and other constituents, and becoming shriveled and worthless; have formed upon the head's surface spherical-topped excrescences, size of small pin's head, containing the orifices of flask-shaped cavities (conceptacles, perithecia) from whose base many cells (spore-sacs, asci) arise, each containing 8 filiform spores formed synchronous with rye flowers, so that the two (spores, flowers) acting together develop again the spha-celia (sclerotium), hence the necessity of using fresh ergot in medicine, at the end of the second stage, prior to the beginning of the third.

Fig. 4.   Ergotized rye.

Fig. 4. - Ergotized rye.

Fig. 5.   Ergot, with fruit heads.

Fig. 5. - Ergot, with fruit heads.

Fig. 6.   Longitudinal section of fruiting head, showing conceptacles.

Fig. 6. - Longitudinal section of fruiting head, showing conceptacles.

Fig. 7.   Ergota.

Fig. 7. - Ergota.

Ergot must be dried (too much causing injury, too little mouldiness) and stored (very dry, in well-stoppered bottles) with great care, as the fixed oil soon inclines to become rancid, and a mite ofttimes will attack it, in either case rendering the product worthless. This deterioration may be prevented largely by either (1) deoleation - extracting fixed oil with ether or petroleum benzin, drying, (2) adding occasionally a few drops of chloroform to the closed container, (3) suspending in the container a tube of potassium sulphate saturated with formaldehyde, (4) keeping over unslaked lime, (5) coating with ethereal solution of Tolu or (6) mixing powdered drug with benzoin (5 p. c.); in any event only the preservation of the sclerotium (entire) can be relied upon. There are three varieties: 1, Spanish, largest, finest-looking, highest-priced, bluest; 2, Russian, reddish-purple, considered most active; 3, German, reddish-purple.