Indian Physic (American Ipecac)

Gillenia stipulata
Rosaceae (roses)

This leafy plant may cover entire hills in the Ozarks. Flowers are in small groups arising from upper leaf axils; the parts are in fives, with 5 erect sepals and 5 white, very narrow, spreading petals with pointed tips, about 20 stamens, and 5 pistils. Blooms May–July. Basal leaves are entirely different from stem leaves, pinnately divided, fernlike. The basal leaves appear much earlier than the upright stems. Stem leaves are 3-divided with lanceolate, double-toothed leaflets. All nodes have leaflike, trifoliate stipules.

Height: to 3 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in dry uplands, open woods, usually on acid soils.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Central and southern Missouri.
Human connections: 
“Indian physic” and “ipecac” indicate Native American use for internal cleansing, a widespread ceremonial custom. "Ipecac" is a word referring to an emetic derived from dried roots of certain plants. Today, emetic drugs are used most often in cases of accidental poisoning.
Ecosystem connections: 
The many diverse plants that colonize Ozark hillsides help to hold the soil in place during our infamous "gully washer" rainstorms. They are also the foundation for a forest ecosystem that includes fungi, insects and other invertebrates, and vertebrates such as birds and mammals.
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