Groovy Green Craft Practitioner Series: Puttyroot Orchid or Adam and Eve root

DISCLAIMER:  ALWAYS USE CAUTION WHEN IDENTIFYING PLANTS. USE YOUR FIELD GUIDES AND LEARN YOUR LATIN NAMES. WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND AN EXPERT. NO ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES IS INTENDED TO GIVE MEDICAL OR ANY OTHER ADVICE IN THE HEALING ARTS OTHER THAN THAT OF A LAY PERSON.

I had to debate with myself on the ethics involved with covering this plant in this series. Because, truly, many people do not have any sense of propriety and stewardship when it comes to our tender plant people. They will rip and pillage and leave nothing behind in their lust for acquisition of materials. So it is with great caution that I discuss our friend, the Puttyroot Orchid, or Adam and Eve root (Aplectrum hyemale).

This orchid is lovely, and modest, and has a long history with foragers, friendly healers, and casters. The roots are edible, so there is a strong appeal to try them.

Potato-like roots/corms boiled and served with butter” –   J.D’s Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants & Fungi

But I urge caution and reserve. Why? This plant is endangered in many areas in the United States, and once you eat it, you have removed another from existence. So make sure that you don’t take the only one in the area if you happen upon this lovely.

Also, this is a survival food. It is not popcorn. It is not a snack.

Barnes Dr Thomas G, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Identifying it will have to wait til later in the year, unless you are very observant. You will only see the flowers emerging, the leaves will not have their usual appearance. The old leaves are nice and brown right now.

But if you are fortunate to be in the right areas, usually near a wood-line, you will find them.Puttyroot has a very unique kind of appearance with veins that run lengthwise and have a silver hue in the fat leaves. The blooms soon will be adorning the stalks with a pleasing combination of tiny bursts of yellow and magenta. These altogether sweet appearances of color are not easy to see against the leaf fall.

In ideal conditions, Puttyroot sends up a single striped, accordion-pleated leaf in late fall, about 3-8 inches (.75 – 2 dm) long and 1-3 inches (.25 – .75 dm) wide. The leaf dies back by the time the single flower stalk blooms in May or early June.  The flower stalk height can vary from about 6 to 20 inches (1.5 – 5 dm). – The Natural Web

This plant is better suited to what its common name would imply. Macerate it and use it as a putty to mend things. Stick some broken pots together. Stick some other natural materials to mend with this stuff.
Since you probably found a broken glass in the woods from horrible people who leave their stuff everywhere anyway, try to fix it with the glue this plant can make. Then remove the glass. Remove the glass anyway. Don’t be trifling.
For our remedy slingers, train with an herbalist and learn how to prepare a tea for migraines.  Or maybe you will learn how to work on boils. You know, stuff you can use instead of trying to find a reason to eat everything you read about in a series.  Even better, perhaps you can use the plant’s legendary property for eloquence to explain to the DNR officer why you are digging up his woods?
Now, here we come to the section that most folks will know about if they practice herb magick. Yep. Adam and Eve root is used in magical herbalism. The most common use is for relationship spells. It is a drawing plant and usually is sold as an oil or as a powder. It is very rare to find a good intact root. This is part of the plant that makes up not only herbalism in general, but are very important to Appalachian and African American practices.
A flora of North America : illustrated by coloured figures, drawn from nature v. 2, 1822
If you would like to explore more about Appalachian magic via a reputable presenter, I suggest Becky Beyer. You can link to a podcast here at “Appalachian Plant Lore with Becky Beyer” on  New World Witchery to hear her talk about it. I do recommend you get out there and get your hands dirty, though, just to become a real practitioner. But don’t be irresponsible and greedy and  part of the group of folks endangering the plant.
%d bloggers like this: