Liverleaf

(1) Hepatica hepatica (L.) Karst.; (2) Hepatica acuta (Pursh) Britton. Synonyms: (1) Hepatica triloba Chaix.; Anemone hepatica L. (2) Hepatica triloba var. acuta Pursh; Hepatica acutiloba DC.

Other common names: (1) Round-leaved hepatica, common liverleaf, kidney liver-leaf, liverwort (incorrect), noble liverwort, heart liverwort, three-leaved liverwort, liverweed, herb-trinity, golden trefoil, ivy flower, mouse-ears, squirrel cup; (2) heart liverleaf, acute-lobed liverleaf, sharp-lobed liverleaf, sharp-lobed hepatica.

Habitat and range: The common liverleaf is found in woods from Nova Scotia to northern Florida and west to Iowa and Missouri, while the heart liverleaf occurs from Quebec to Ontario, south to Georgia (but rare near the coast), and west to Iowa and Minnesota.

Description: The hepaticas are among the earliest of our spring flowers, blossoming about March, and frequently before that time. They grow only about 4 to 6 inches in height, with leaves produced from the roots on long soft-hairy stalks and spreading on the ground. The thick and leathery evergreen leaves are kidney shaped or roundish and deeply divided into three oval, blunt lobes; the young leaves are pale green and soft hairy, but the older ones become leathery and smooth, expanding. when mature to almost 3 inches across; they are dark green above, sometimes with a purplish tinge, and also of a purplish color on the under surface. The flowers, which are about one-half inch in diameter, are borne singly on slender, hairy stalks arising from the root, and vary in color from bluish to purple or white. Immediately beneath the flower are three small, stemless, oval, and blunt leaflets or bracts, which are thickly covered with soft, silky hairs.

The heart liverleaf is very similar to the common liverleaf. It grows perhaps a trifle taller and the lobes of the leaf and the small leaflets or bracts immediately under the flower are more sharply pointed.

The hepaticas are members of the crowfoot family (Ranunculacese) and are perennials. The name "liverwort," often given to these plants, is incorrect, since it belongs to an entirely different genus.

Collection, prices, and uses: The leaves, which were official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1830 to 1880, are the parts employed; they should be collected in April. They lose about three-fourths of their weight in drying. The price at present paid for them is about 4 to 5 cents a pound.

Liverleaf is employed for its tonic properties and is said to be useful in affections of the liver.


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