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Sunday - October 05, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Plant Identification
Title: Where do snake herb and skeleton-leaf goldeneye get their names?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Where does snake herb, and skeleton leaf goldeneye get their names from? Thank you.

ANSWER:

For Viguiera stenoloba (Resinbush or Skeleton-leaf goldeneye) the commom name would reflect the fact that it has very narrow leaves (sort of skeleton-like) compared to other members of the Genus Viguiera (goldeneyes) such as Viguiera cordifolia (Heartleaf goldeneye) and Viguiera dentata (Sunflower goldeneye) that have broader leaves. Stenoloba, the species designation, means narrow-lobed.

A meaning for the common name, snake herb, Dyschoriste crenulata (Wavyleaf snakeherb), Dyschoriste oblongifolia (Oblongleaf snakeherb)Dyschoriste linearis (Snake herb) and Dyschoriste schiedeana var. decumbens (Spreading snakeherb) was not so easy to find.  However, a brief mention of the reason for the name of snake herb occurs in the book Frontier Naturalist: Jean Louis Berlandier and the Exploration of Northern Mexico and Texas on page 103.  It says that the Commanches and the Lipan Apaches chewed the root of a plant called snake herb and made a poultice of the herb-and-saliva that they put on the wound from snake bites.  We don't know if this was a species in the Genus Dyschoristes, however.  There are also plants with these similar common names—common names including "snake":  Sanicula canadensis (Canadian blacksnakeroot), Ageratina aromatica var. aromatica (Lesser snakeroot), and  Eryngium aquaticum (Rattlesnake-master) to name just a few. So, even though we can't be completely sure that the plant named in the book above is the same snake herb that is in the Genus Dyschoristes, this is one possible explanation.

 

From the Image Gallery


Skeleton-leaf goldeneye
Viguiera stenoloba

Skeleton-leaf goldeneye
Viguiera stenoloba

Heartleaf goldeneye
Viguiera cordifolia

Heartleaf goldeneye
Viguiera cordifolia

Plateau goldeneye
Viguiera dentata

Plateau goldeneye
Viguiera dentata

Wavyleaf snakeherb
Dyschoriste crenulata

Oblongleaf snakeherb
Dyschoriste oblongifolia

Snake herb
Dyschoriste linearis

Spreading snakeherb
Dyschoriste schiedeana var. decumbens

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