Northern Ontario Plant Database
Medeola virginiana L.
En: wild cucumber-root
Liliaceae (Lily Family)
General: A perennial forb with a solitary, erect stem, 2–9 dm tall, growing from a thick, horizontal rhizome reportedly with a cucumber-like taste. Young stems with thin woolly hairs (floccose) that may persist at the base of the leaves.
Leaves: Simple, parallel-veined, sessile; arranged in 2 whorls. The lower whorl with 5–9 oblanceolate leaves, 6–12 cm long, the bases tapering gradually to the stem; the upper whorl usually with 3 elliptic to ovate leaves (rarely more), 3–6 cm long, with rounded bases. Leaf blades smooth (glabrous) and shiny above; leaf tips abruptly and sharply pointed (acuminate); margins entire.
Flowers: Bisexual; few flowers in a terminal cluster (umbel), borne on short stalks (pedicels), 1.5–2.5 cm long. Sepals and petals alike (tepals), 6, pale yellow-green, oblong and recurved; stamens 6; the single pistil bearing a slender 3-branched maroon style that recurves over the superior ovary. The stigma is situated on the outer surface of the style. Flowers bloom in June.
Fruit: A globose berry, smooth, dark purple. Fruits mature in summer.
Habitat and Range: Rich deciduous woods. The Indian cucumber-root is native to eastern North America; in Ontario, it extends as far north as the north shore of Lake Superior.
Internet Images: The Medeola virginiana webpage from the Gallery of Connecticut Wildflowers, a website of the Connecticut Botanical Society.
Similar Species: The flowers of Medeola virginiana are unique enough that they are not easily confused with other plants, but in the absence of flowers, the whorled leaves may be confused with those of a lily, such as Lilium philadelphicum. The wood lily, however, has several whorls of narrow lanceolate leaves. See the Lilium philadelphicum webpage from the Gallery of Connecticut Wildflowers, a website of the Connecticut Botanical Society.
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