Pterocaulon pycnostachyum (Black root, rabbit tabacco, Indian blackroot)
Species Description: blackroot distinguishing characteristics are the stem and leaves that are covered in a thick white tomentose hairs. The leaves hug the stem and the leaf bases extend down the stem (decurrent), giving the stem a winged appearance. The inflorescence consists of a terminal spike that is oblong and starts to nod as it is flowering (anthesis). The root is a thick, tuberous black root.
Season: blackroot blooms May-June, or year round in the most southern extent of its range.
Habitat: Sandhills, Pine Flatwood and Savanna ecosystems, old sandy fields.
Range: Southeast Coastal Plain endemic: North Carolina south to Florida and west to Mississippi.
Traditional use: blackroot has a long traditional use among both the African Americans in the South and the indigenous people of the Southeast. This herb was used to relieve menstrual pain and for colds. A decoction of the roots was taken for colds and menstrual cramps. In South Carolina, African Americans would boil the whole root to make a tea for backache. The Seminoles refer to blackroot as “blood saver medicine” and use the plant for pulmonary disorders. The plant was also used to treat chronic coughs or colds. Chemical studies have revealed that blackroot contains a variety of coumarins. Coumarins have historically been used as a blood anticoagulant. Further, blackroot contains other chemicals that are antioxidant, prooxidant, and antiviral.