The following is the second part of Colden’s treatise on the plants of Coldenhamia.   For the sake of the local history of the Mid-Hudson Valley, Part 2 of Colden dissertation is produced in its entirety.   It is important to note here that over the decades numerous references have been made to Colden’s work with limited attempt to make it more available to the public.  In an attempt to better understand Colden’s identifications of the local plants, and in order to eliminate any misconceptions writers have often left us with regarding Colden’s contributions to science, attempts were made to clarify whenever possible Colden’s influences on the fields of natural science and botany with this work.  





Nepeta: catnip.  Nepeta cataria.  Presumably an introduced species, the presence of this plant in Virginia ca. 1737 suggests that a rapid naturalization process took place due to a garden escape.   This is one of two known species for which actual specimens exist in the Linnean collection.


Melissa:   Hedeoma pulegioides.  Upon first reading, we want to think Colden is talking about Melissa officinalis, the Lemon Balm from England.  The description, however, does not match this plant, and since Colden is documenting plants native to his properties (even those escaped from gardens), we have to begin with the argument that this is a native plant, and then try to identify it from a listing of plants native to New York based on this assumption.    The flower of this plant is violet.  The plant has a strong odor (“odore vehementi”) and this plant has relative living in Virginia where Gronovius and Clayton made their identifications.  In the “Observations” section of his description, Colden claims this plant is ‘cherished and used much like Pulegium vulgare, and is as effective or useful in treating morbid conditions (sicknesses) as the traditional or commonly used (vulgar) species.  For this reason I suspect the Hedeoma pulgeioides found growing in New York.  (This plant is very common along gravelly roadsides north of the Colden estate up into New Paltz.)  The America False Pennyroyal is called Hedeoma pulegioides; the traditional pennroyal of Eurasian origin is Mentha pulegium. If this plant was a true pennyroyal, Colden’s note would have inferred that this was Mentha pulegium after it escaped from traditional gardens, naturalizing on Colden’s property.  Another possibility:  there is a local wild flower in New York that resembles Pennyroyal, which has blue (cyanescens), not violet (violaceo) flowers is identified by House as Blue Curls or Bastard Pennyroyal (Trichostema dichotomun). 

These three are shown below in this order. 

MEDICINE:  In the “Observations” section of his description, Colden claims this plant is ‘cherished and used much like ‘Pulegium vulgare’ (as he identified its similar), and is as effective or useful in treating morbid conditions (sicknesses) as the traditional or commonly used (vulgar) species. 


Lamium: dead nettle.  Folia . . . ‘Hederulae similae’ (Hedera-like folia and vine-like groundcover growth  support this identification.  There are three Lamium species common to the New York area, all of which were introduced from Europe and have since naturalized–Lamium album L. (white dead nettle), L. amplexicaule L, and L. purpureum L. (red or purple dead nettle).  The “amplexicaulibus” nature of this plant noted by Colden suggests this is the second species.

BrunellaPrunella vulgaris.  Self Heal or Heal All.  Note ‘floribus dilute purpureis dense stipatis’.  This plant is extremely common to the Hudson Valley area.  The Latin name infer another common name “quinsywort”, suggesting one of its most traditional uses.

Scutellaria: scullcap.  Scutellaria noveboracensis or New York Scullcap according to Colden.  Scutellaria is ruled out by Colden’s flower description, which mentions the existence of these in simple pairs, and his lanceolate leaf description.  Another possible species not displayed is S. integrifolia or S. hyssopifolia L. of the eastern North America.  The marsh scullcap or hooded willow herb seems less likely due to larger flower size and hyssop-like (therefore less lanceolate, more oblong) leaves.   This leaves us with S. galericulata L. above, or some scarcer local species as Colden’s identification.

Pedicularis: Lousewort.    Probably Pedicularis canadensis or P. palustris.   The former is specific to North America.

Bartsia:  This is a fairly recently identified genus in Colden’s years of botanical activity.  This genus is attributed to Prussian botanist and doctor, John Bartsch, MD, (d. 1738) a close associate of Linne.  The plant is a member of the Scrophularia family (Scrophulariaceae), and tends to live in shady bogs and their borderlands where the soil is kept very moist.  Sandy soil may support this species as well, given the right soil type, ecological setting, and amount of sun exposure.  Other genera closely associated with Bartsia include Castilleja and Rhinanthus.    There are 60+ North American species (3-5 European and 1+ American); many are tropical; some are parasitic upon grasses.  The flower is usually non-pigmented.


Anonyma [149]:   This is probably a Scrophularia family member, but possibly mint based on certain stem and leaf notes (‘SEM. tria vel quatuor’ . . . ‘Folia bina opposita’).   A uniquely descriptive part of Colden’s writing notes: ‘Limbi figuro similis capiti Piscis’.  When viewed from a certain angle, a part of this plant closely resembles the head of a fish.  This plant has a roundish flower, that is perhaps curved more at the top (thus the pisces appearance) and is comprised of fused petals with inferior parts that are lanceolate and protruding.  There are two main flowers, with single flowers positioned at axial stems.  Since Colden’s intent is to keep what appear to be closely related plants together, this allows us to suspect this unnamed species is probably a Scrophulariaceae member (as noted above).


Chelone:  Turtle-head.  Chelone glabra.  Aquatic plant.



Mimulus:  A true mimulus or monkeyflower (Mimulus sp.) is difficult to distinguish from Lysimachia nummularia (moneyplant or creeping yellow loosestrife) based on this description. However,  ‘Folia: lanceolata’ suggests the former, ‘bina opposita, serrata, sessilia’ and Flores pattern suggests the latter.  Either are possible.  For photos of monkeyflower see   (Note: These are the fairly decorative varieties and may bear larger corollas or petals that earlier versions.  


Ruellia:  The only North American Ruellia preceding Colden’s treatise is R. streptans, of Pennsylvania, which has a blue flower.  Fam: Acanthaceae.

Digitalis [153]: ‘Flores lutei’ (yellow flowers) is atypical of Digitalis, but very common for several local species.  Flores ‘in spicis ramulorum terminalibus . . . ‘ confirms this (flowers in end spike and in small clusters with minorum axial leaves).  Subsequent descriptions of what Colden called Digitalis confirm these plants as being from another genus.  Although ‘laciniata’ foliage [154] is possible with Digitalis (genetic diversity), ‘Folia pinnitifida’ is not associated with true Digitalis and so confirms other possible genus identity.  The yellow flower, form of the flower and mistaken identification as Digitalis suggest as one possibility Rhinanthes minor (common name yellow rattle).  There are approximately 45 species of Rhinanthes, many with distinct ecological form or ecotypes for the plant, which may explain Colden’s collection of 3 different varieties.  The genus is hemiparasitic and reseeds as an annual.   Another possibility is the related Aureolaria species, esp. A. virginica, pedicularia or glauca.  According to the description for the third ‘Digitalis’ species provided by Colden, opposing lanceolate leaves suggests A. glauca.

Digitalis [154]:  Probably Rhinanthus minor;  see ‘Digitalis’ description above.

Digitalis [155]: Probably Rhinanthus minor; see ‘Digitalis’ description above.


Anonyma [156]: Most likely Draba verna (later known as Whitlow’s grass).  A very small plant (<5″ height) with two simple leaves at the base [‘Folia duo’] and a series of small white flowers forming a brief raceme at the tip.  Lives about 4 to 6 weeks.

Erysimum:   Linn. hort. cliff. 337 note confirms.  Of European origin (?), an escapee from local gardens.


Waltheria [158]:  Colden asks whether or not this is akin to Anagallis (Linnean 1737/1753) or scarlet pimpernel, an introduced plant with red flowers.  Since there are three Waltheria species, I am inclined to believe this to be one or more of the already common local species related to Anagallis.  In modern taxonomic research, true Waltheria [Fam: Sterculiaceae] is a Madagascar, Taiwan, Malay genus, named for Prof. Walther of Leipsic.  A medicinal Waltheria was noted in southern N. Amer., ca. 1895  (W. Americana Lindl.) and W. glomerulata (yerba de solado) in trop. Amer. (a hemostatic).  The other Waltheria of the Americas is W. glomerulata Presl. which was documented much later.  Contemporary taxonomists note some species of Waltheria native to SW N. Amer.  The possibility that this is a native species in the New York area, since extinguished, appears unlikely.   Due to Colden’s apparent familiarity with many of the New Spain species, this may simply be a local flora version akin to the more southern plants, apparently then popular to Colden and others.  The color of the flower is strongly suggestive of this identification due to the medical use noted by Colden, a consequence of phytognomics (the red flowers).  MEDICINE.  A decoction of the plant is effective at curing “sudore sanguineo Vitulorum” (translated: ‘sweating blood…’ and ‘(re)vitalizing’?). 

Waltheria [159]:  see 158. 

Waltheria [160]: see 158.


Geranium:   The most common local geranium is G. maculatum.  The form of leaf for this plant bears resemblances to Colden’s description, although lobular quality of Colden’s described leaf samples seem less partitioned than expected.  MEDICINE.  The root, decocted, is used to treat Dysentery.


Malva:  probably the exceptionally common Malva spp. (M. esculenta or rotundifolia), based on leaf-form.

House briefly names a number of Malva or mallows that were introduced from the Old World and since naturalized in North America.  The majority of Malva Family (Malvaceae) plants are of this type.  House lists the following as the most common introduced species:

  • High Mallow (Malva sylvestris Linnaeus)
  • Low, Dwarf, Running of Cheese Mallow (Malva rotundifolia Linnaeus)
  • Whorled or Curled Mallow (Malva verticillata Linnaeus)
  • Vervain Mallow (Malva alcea Linnaeus)



Polygala [163]:  According to Paxton’s Botanical Dictionary, the following Polygala, found in North America prior to 1800, were documented about the same time: P. lutea (1739, yellow), P. purpurea (1739, purple), P. sanguinea (1739, rose), P. senega (1739, red-white), P. verticillata (1739, white).   Whether or not this species, with its fairly narrow (‘linearibus’) leaves when compared with P. senega, is a distinct species remains uncertain.  The following are the six native New York Polygala species reviewed by Homer D. House.

Polygala [164]:   Polygala senega.    MEDICINE.  This is probably the Seneca Snakeroot soonafter made famous by Colden’s daughter Jane and other botanists in the Pennsylvania-New York area.  However, Colden fails to mention any medicinal attributes in this particular writing.


Sophora:  A common name for this plant according to Colden is Wild Indigo.  Possibly a Cystisus, as noted by Gron. virg. and in Colden’s ‘OBS.’ section notes.  A number of Legumes served as Indigo sources.  Yellow flowers with cuneiform, succulent, smooth, sessile leaves also suggest Cytisus, esp. C. scoparius.  Clayton’s identity (Spartio sp.) notes trifoliate leaf form.  The sphaeroid, inflating legume seed pod suggests a possible association: when matured, Cytisus pods “pop” in the sun during warm days because of their exceptionally dark purple to black color.

Hedysarum [166]:

Hedysarum [167]:


Lupinus:  a true Lupine. (Note compound leaf description.)

Dalea:  Perhaps an escapee of Dalea aurea or D. alopecuroides, two southern North American varieties of the Indigo Bush found in colonies adjancet to the Gulf of Mexico.  Dalea is an annual plant.  Its indigo was fairly common in Colonial dye industry and trade.  Traditionally, the colonies relied heavily upon the Carribean to produce their much needed supplies of Indigo, but it is possible that local gardens were trying to develop a local crop as well.  If such were the case, this Dalea is an accidental replant.  Although there are several other possible genera similar to Dalea, none are native to North America.

Hypericum [170]:  Although these Hypericums are possibly the same plant, with different representations, the chief identifying features are best noted in 172.  Probably Hypericum perforatum.

Hypericum [171]:   see 170.

Hypericum [172]:   see 170.


Prenanthes:  Referred to as Rattlesnake Root, Brooklyn Botanical Garden notes 5 species in the New York City area, differentiated by flower color and leaf form.  The species noted by Colden remains uncertain.  The most popular species, Prenanthes alba, was possibly made popular due to its use as a medicine by the Iroquois (Herrick, James William 1977 Iroquois Medical Botany. State University of New York, Albany, PhD Thesis, p. 478-9). 

Order of figures that follow: P. trifoliata (Homer D. House. 1918. Wildflowers of New York, The University of the State of New York, 1918);  P. alba distribution map, USDA website; P. alba illustration (Britton and Brown, 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. Vol. 3: 335.)  For P. trifoliata, see also; the USDA plants identification website has P. alba at; New York Natural Plant heritage notes:



Hieracium [174]:

Hieracium [175]:  Contemporary name-hawkweed; both yellow and red varieties are noted and commonly grown in gardens.  The leaf has a distinguished hairy or bristly surface.  The flower stem is approximately twice as tall as that of Dandelion, and bears a similar flower appearance although significantly smaller and more disc-like.  This first species has distinguishing red veins in the leaves, and yellow flowerheads.

Hieracium [176]:  The oval, mildly dentate form of the leaves and their simple form suggests the true Leontodon, which lacks the pilious  (bristly) surface, although this possible identification remains uncertain.



Leontodon:  Probably Taraxacum officinalis, the true Dandelion. There is uncertainty regarding Colden’s awareness of both Leontodon (False Dandelion) and Taraxacum (Dandelion).  Their resemblances are superficial and related to the similar leaf pattern at the based on a flowering stalk bearing the well-known yellowing flowerhead consisting of multiple florets.  Unfortunately, a detailed description of this plant was not given by Colden.  Colden doubts its uses or reverence, if persent, were traditional to local Indigenous culture, and he suggests that this plant was introduced from Europe by way of transplanted seeds, ‘[which look] like an allied grass seed’.

Serratula:  Either Dyer’s Plumeless Sawtooth (Serratula tinctoria) or a local Swamp thistle (Cirsium palustre).   The latter has another Thistle or Cirsium species identified by Colden, suggesting this is possibly Serratula, as Colden noted.   Colden’s familiarity with this herb common to English gardens is a strong possibility, instead of a mistaken identification based on the similarity of certain local thistle species to Serratula.


Carduus:  Thistles were of two major forms: Cirsium, which is the traditional thistle common to North America, with those in the New York region bearing a fairly thin, flexible and unwaxed leaf surface riddled with very thin bristles, ranging from very short (>1/4″) to very long (>1″).  The flowerheads of Cirsium are typically white to purple, but more often leaning towards the latter.  Carduus is the European thistle genus, distinguished from the American genus by its much larger, almost succulent or crisp (lettuce-like) leaves, with sizeable thistles (twice as large as Cirsium), that are often fewer in density and number.  The overall plant is much larger, in terms of overall size of plant, thickness of stem, and flowerhead.  Introduced to the New World, this plant might not have escaped as aggressively as it did in warmer parts of North America during later decades and centuries.  This means that the genus for Colden’s Thistle, as it would be accepted by today’s taxonomic standards, is most likely Cirsium.  The number of species of Cirsium in New York is considerable.  The larger headed thistle is the most likely species he is referring to. [The more common smaller head Cirsium, Canada thistle (C. canadensis) is a nuisance plant.]


Eupatorium:  The two most commonly cited Eupatorium species in New York are E. purpureum and E. perfoliatum.   A number of less frequently observed species can be found in similar habitats in New York, which were typically not considered medicinal well into the 19th century.  The desciption of  ‘rugosa’ flowers grouped in ‘umbella’ along the stem suggest E. purpureum.  According to Paxton’s Botanical Dictionary, the North America Eupatorium species that were documented prior to 1800 were described in the following order: E. ageratoides (1640, white flowered), A. rotundifolium (1640, white), E. maculatum (1656, purple), E. hyssopifolium (1699, white), E. perfoliatum (1699, white), E. rotundifolium (1699, white),  E. sessilifolium (1777, white), E. aromaticum (1789, white).   MEDICINE.  Indigenous use is a decoction of the root of the plant used to cure lues venera (gonorrhea). 

Eupatorium [181]:   The description of the leaves of this plant suggests E. perfoliatum, which became a very popular fever remedy during the early 19th century yellow and “breakbone” fever epidemics.

The following are four important species of Eupatorium noted by Homer D. House.

Eupatorium [182]: ‘bini opposita’ suggests paired leaves opposing each other about the stem.  A quadrifolium form occurs occasionally in the marshlands of Dutchess County.  The note regarding cordate leaves suggests official identification is E. rotundifolium.


Bidens [183]:  Tick Trefoils.  These plants common to swampy fields are known very well for the tendency of their black seeds, bearing two hooked prongs, to latch onto clothing.

Bidens [184]: another sample or species of 183.


Gnaphalium:  Note the following portions of Colden’s description: ‘CAL . . . albus . . . Flores . . . colorum album.’   A. B. Lyons Plant Names . . . (Detroit, 1900) notes G. obtusifolium (G. polycephalum Michx) as possible identity, which was then known as White or Field Balsam.  Paxton’s Botanical Dictionary does not identify a white flowering North American species.


Solidago [186]:

Solidago [187]:

Solidago [188]:


Solidago [189]:

Solidago [190]:

Solidago [191]:

Solidago [192]:


Aster [193]:

Aster [194]:

Aster [195]:

Aster [196]:

Aster [197]:

Aster [198]:

Anthemis:   Currently identity is A. cotula.  Paxton’s Botanical Dictionary lacks note of an American species.   Mabberley’s The Plant Book notes that this genus is naturalized to North America.   Note Claton’s identity: “Cotula foetida vulgaris“.   MEDICINE.  Rough translation of the above OBS: ‘Odor is not gratifying.  The herb is known for its use in producing a ‘Cataplasm for Inflammation’ used to treat contusions and swellings.’   The smell confers with other descriptions of Anthemis medical uses.


AchilleaAchillea millefolium.


Helianthus [201]:  The Helianthus species reviewed by Colden are differentiated by having either a lanceolate leaf and multiple flowers[201] or with a single stem and single large flower.  H. tuberosa or Jerusalem Artichoke if present is introduced.

Helianthus [202]:  Resembling H. annuum, the traditional sunflower.

The following 5 native Helianthus were noted by House.


Lobelia [203]: see next Lobelia entry.


Lobelia [204]:  The speciation and differentiation between the three different Lobelia are uncertain.  “Sp. 2′ refers to Specimen 2, and perhaps three different varieties of the same Lobelia were gathered.  “Sp. 2′ was rich in nectar at the time of gathering “Succo lacteo acerrimo abundas.’   The latin term ‘caerulea’ [Lobelia serotina . . . , 206] refers to colors ranging from white or light to blue to very deep blue.  The modern Lobelia inflata has flowers that range in colors from a slightly dark sky blue, mottled with white portions, to pure white.  Lobelia [206] most closely resembles this L. inflata.  Another Lobelia in the Orange County-Dutchess County region, Lobelia cardinalis, has a much larger spike with 3/4-1′ long tubular, deep red flowers atop a large stalk; the plant is 3-4′ in height.

Four Lobelia species appearing in Homer D. House’s Wildflowers of New York:

Lobelia [205]:  See above.

Lobelia [206]:  See above.


Impatiens:  There are two locally native Impatiens: Impatiens pallida (I. flava)  and I. biflora (I. fulva )m differentiated by the color of their flower–yellow or orange.  The yellow is more common to the region and Colden may have never seen the Orange variety to know that it may be distinguishable.  Colden rightfully equated this with other Impatiens spp. common to European flower gardens.


Orchis [208]:  Cypripedium sp.  Palmata radix (spreading roots, like fingers from a palm) is an obvious Cypripedium attribute.  

Orchis [209]:  Name related leaf description from Gron. virg. supports true Cypripedium sp. identification.  The true Cypripedium is determined by the following fairly coarse translation of the above description: ‘large oval leaves come out from withing the center of the stem, in pairs, are oval to oblong, with flower extending upwards from them [axially]. Gron. virg.’ 

Compare this description of Colden’s Orchis foliage with the descriptions of the next 2 species, identified by Colden as Cypripedium [again roughly translated]: “COR. petala [petals of corolla] in fours, long, lanceolate to very narrow . . .  Folia alternating, obversely elliptical, plicative [bears  an irregular, mottled or patchy color pattern], with a long thin stem at its base.  Flos one smooth terminal flower.  Flowers in April.”  This early flowering season is a chief identifier.


Cypripedium prius [210]: genus name implies lady’s slipper; April flowering corolla, leaf (folia) and flower (flos) description suggest trout lily (Erythronium sp.).  This identification is supported by the subsequent entry.

Cypripedium alterum [211]: white flowering variety, Erythronium album.

 There are five orchids covered by House that are worth mentioning regarding Colden’s review.  The Cypripedium species are the most likely candidates to be found in close association with his home.

LimodorumLimodorum orchids are the infrequent to rare species found in woodlands with a single predominant spike consisting of flowers along the stem upwards towards the tip.  There is some difficulty with distinguishing between identifications from one region to the next; Colden perhaps knew of only one species however.  Colden notes its association with certain ‘sylvis’ (tree) settings.

The following are three examples of similarly looking orchids.  Colden notes a red flowering orchid.

Sisyrinchium: blue-eyed grass.  Note Colden’s entry of ‘COR. Petals . . . caerulea’ (petals are blue).


Dracontium:  Vulgar name – Skunkweed.  This along with medicinal uses suggest the local skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).  Colden notes the local naming habits transition: Pole Cadweed or Pole-Cat-Weed (Pole Cat ~ Skunk).    MEDICINE.   Two major medicinal uses are noted.  There is an antiscorbutic (anti-scurvy) used defined by its unique “insignis” (insignia or doctrine of signature) [the color and spotty color pattern of the external flower part (spathe versus spadix) resembles the skin of a scurvy patient.]  The indigenous tales state that the plant is commonly thought of as helping the bear to kill, (‘Ursi…bane’  or bear…kill), by helping to strengthen the muscles (promote movement) and heating the blood.  In compress form it will do the same [for us], as a result of natural response or impulse.



Arum:  “Arum caulescens, foliis cernatis.”  Name suggests this is a leafy plant with an obvious stem protruding from the ground.  There are only two options for this Arum: the aquatic Arum found growing in ponds and lakes, or the “Arum” later given the genera name of Arisaema–Jack in the Pulpit.  The complex Spatha and Spadix descriptions suggest the latter.  Contemporary ecology of the region also demonstrates Arisaema triphyllum as being the only woodlands native species.


Zea [216]:  white corn,  known as Mohawk-corn.  The ‘humilis praecox’ refers to this and the following species as a short-grower with early maturation.

Zea [217]: yellow corn, of New England and New York. 

Zea [218]: white corn.  The phrase ‘elatior media’ refers to the leaf structure, translated as ‘wide flat leaves, of medium size.’  The following 4 species are similar, differing only in the color of their kernels.

Zea [219]: yellow corn.

Zea [220]: orange corn.

Zea [221]: red corn.

Zea [222]:  has a whitish seed head, tightly packed; very difference from the corn cob in appearance on the plant; ‘serotina’ means wheat-like.  Perhaps this is one of the domestic grains or a relative/hybrid thereof.  Other options include the locally highly common swamp grass, rush or reed species, in particular the local wetlands dominant species.

Zea [223]: too brief to effectively identify.


Myrica:  One of the New York Myrica sp. (M. gale or M. cerifera) is the most likely identification.  There is also a M. carolinensis noted in the Mid-Atlantic area.   MEDICINE.  This plant is considerably aromatic, in particular its leaves and young stemsIndians used the root of the plant as a masticatory (chewed), and to make a medicine for assisting the flow of blood, in particular for those who were weakened or wounded and in a state of recovery.

Ambrosia [225]:  a local Ambrosia.



Ambrosia [226]:  another local Ambrosia.

Carpinus:  Common name-Ironwood.  More than likely the Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana or C. americana) common to parts of this part of New York.



Liquidambur:  Common name-Gumwood. For  Liquidambur styraciflua L.,  Colden notes a geographical limitation (41 degree latitude, preferring the warmer climates) exists regarding where this plant can be found.  It extends as far north as Connecticut, New England.


Pinus [229]:  “The white Pinetree” ; 5-needle theca noted by Colden.

Pinus [230]: “The Blak pine, vel Pitch Pine”, with a 3-needle theca noted by Colden.

Pinus [231]: “Yellow Pine”; 2-needle theca noted by Colden.

Pinus [232]: “The Spruce Pine”

Thuya:  “Arbor vitae”  According to Colden, they have a flavorant value for some recipes and are frequently used as such by the local “Hud’sons”.


Sagittaria: arrowleaf (Sagittaria latifolia).

Taxus repens: Creeping or Ground Yew

Adiantum: maiden-hair fern

Polypodium: common fern