Ethnopharmacy and Colden
Johann Schoepf also cited four plants which he learned about through Cadwallader Colden’s work for which he provided ethnobotany information on, obtained from Colden’s notes. These plants are as follows.
With Schoepf’s work we are provided with a little more insight into Colden’s work.
Schoepf’s descriptions of Aralia for example tell us that Aralia spinosa–the Tooth-ach Tree–was less common to New York and more southern, as it is today, and if included in Colden’s work may have not been due so much to its local nativity. The other two Aralia species are however expected to be native to Coldenham and therefore have important ethnopharmacological backgrounds which Colden has shared with us. There is one remaining local Aralia species not covered by Colden or Schoepf however–Aralia hispida or bristly sarsaparilla. For Jane’s work, Aralia spinosa is most like the “shrub” species she has noted.
Rumex Brittanica is the next Colden species reviewed by Schoepf. This may very well be the Rumex obtusifolius L. or R. patientia L. described by Linnaeus, both European species naturalized in North America. The other option is it is Rumex crispus L., a plant native to both North America 9as far as we can tell) and Europe.
Trillium cernuum is important to note because in Colden’s treatise, he refers to this as “Paris”, lumping it together with the Paris species native to Europe. A major difference between Trillium and Paris, which escaped Colden’s detection strangely, is the three-leaf form of Trillium versus to four-leaf form of Paris. Otherwise, the two on first glance look very similar. Schoepf’s work therefore clarifies the species of Trillium both Cadwallader and Jane have documented. From Jane’s illustration in her manuscript, we can surmise that Trillium was probably what was being identified, but since Jane illustrated just one of the three leaflets for Trillium, we cannot really differentiate it from a Paris leaflet.
For entry 282, Arum triphyllum, we can see that Jack in the Pulpit was indeed being referred to as an Arum genus. Currently it is called Arisaema triphyllum. The importance of this pertains to the naturalized Arum species also found in most woodlands near the edges of water bodies. These probably introduced Arums are not to be confused with the “Arum” most native to Coldenham.
The subsequent entry for Skunk Cabbage (Dracontium foetidum . . . , now known as Symplocarpus foetidus) is worth noting. There will be a large variety of uses for this plant developed over the next few years and generations of herbalism. Colden recommends it for wounds and ulcers as an external remedy, and for coughs related to consumption (which could be anything from a simple severe cough, to cough associated with pleurisy, to an actual tuberculosis case). The antiscorbutic effect of this plant would also be passed on into 19th century eclectic medicine literature.