Botanical: Iris foetidissima (LINN.)
---Synonyms---Gladwin. Spurge Plant. Roast Beef Plant.
Family: N.O. Iridaceae
Stinking Gladwyn is found only locally in England, but is common in all the southwestern counties, growing in woods and shady places, on hedgebanks and sloping grounds.
---Description---The creeping rhizomes are thick, tufted and fibrous. The leaves are firm, deep green, sword-shaped, shorter, narrower and less rigid and of a darker green than those of the Yellow Flag, and are evergreen in winter. When bruised or crushed, they emit a strong odour, at a distance not unlike that of hot, roast beef, hence its country name of 'Roast Beef Plant.' On closer acquaintance, the scent becomes disagreeable, hence the more usual common name 'Stinking Gladwyn,' and the Latin specific name.
It flowers from June to August, but sparingly, and the corollas, of a dull, livid purple colour, rarely bluish or yellowish, are smaller than those of the other flags and not fragrant at night.
The flowers are followed by triangular seed-vessels, which, when ripe, open, disclosing beautiful orange-red coloured seeds.
---Cultivation---Stinking Gladwyn flourishes in moist and partially-shaded places, in ordinary garden soil. Seeds scattered in semiwild places soon make good plants and plants may also be increased by division of the rhizomes. The brilliant seeds in their gaping capsules make it an effective garden plant in autumn.
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Antispasmodic, cathartic, anodyne. Iris foetidissima has been employed for the same medicinal purposes as the Yellow Flag and is equally violent in its action. A decoction of the roots acts as a strong purge. It has also been used as an emmenagogue and for cleansing eruptions. The dried root, in powder or as an infusion, is good in hysterical disorders, fainting, nervous complaints and to relieve pains and cramps.
Taken inwardly and applied outwardly to the affected part, it is an excellent remedy for scrofula.
The use of this Iris was well known to the Ancients and is referred to by Theophrastus, in the fourth century before Christ.
Common Name Index
Bear in mind "A Modern Herbal" was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900's. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.
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