Blue Cohosh

Blue Cohosh by Jennifer Schlick
Blue Cohosh by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Caulophyllum thalictroides

This blue has nothing to do
with sky or any bluebird
any sea. You could dye
your lips this color
if you wanted to look like
the healthiest corpse alive.
(But the roots—it’s the roots
they use for… you know.)

Blue as the past
tense of blow:
flowering past, it leaches
from the glabrous leaves
only to resurface months later
in the berries
bluer than a blue howl.
(What about the roots?)
The maturing seeds rupture the ovary,
Alien-style, & loose themselves
upon the world: a toxic
substitute for coffee.
Choose your medicine.
(Cramps, fits, & hysterics.
Inflammations of the womb.)

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15 Comments


  1. Like the “blue” as past tense for “blow”!

    Wonder if cohosh likes cold… My black cohosh has erupted mightily from the ground this year with many stalwart young.

    Reply

    1. Glad that worked for you! Feeling a bit experimental this morning.

      I don’t know, but don’t confuse blue with black cohosh — they’re actually in separate genuses. We don’t have the former here in the hollow, but we’ve got plenty of the latter, and it’s doing very well indeed.

      Reply

      1. Mmm, thought they might not be related, looking at the blossom. But was too lazy too look it up… But isn’t it interesting which plants are heavy bloomers after the bad winter. The dogwoods in NC were heavily bough-bowed when I made it there.

        Reply

        1. Does it have to do with the winter, or with growing conditions the previous year?

          They’re not just in different genuses, but in different families, apparently (buttercup family for black; barberry for blue). Both are prescribed for gynecological problems, though. “Cohosh” is from the Eastern Abenaki word for “pine tree.”

          Reply

          1. Dunno. How does one know? But I think the dogwood suggests cold–because the growing season was normal but the cold and snow was so radically different in the NC mountains. Up here, well, we’re always cold. Hard to tell. (But we were colder and longer…)

            Black cohosh tea is in my pantry. Nasty-tasting. “Squaw root.”


  2. ‘Cramps, fits and hysterics’ – is that from your Gerards Herbal ?!

    Reply

      1. Silly question, I guess Gerard would not have been familiar with American plants! Oh dear, they all thought hysterics was a condition of the womb, then.

        Reply

        1. Yes, that was a bizarre folk-science belief, wasn’t it? Kind of like phrenology or something. (Gerard did include some New World plants, actually.)

          Reply

  3. This is a dark beauty of the kind I am given to being seduced by. Peter loves white flowers, but at Ty Isaf there are dark varieties of many blooms, because of my liking for such things. (Peter averts his eyes from them! But me, I like those bruised petals, as dark as over-ripe plums.)

    ‘bluer than a blue howl.’

    Oh yes! A rich brew.

    Reply

    1. For too long, while flowers have been keeping the dark flowers down. It’s time for a revolt!

      Reply

  4. Lovely vignette.

    Re: “used for what?” blue cohosh is well known to midwives and women’s health providers for its use as an early abortifacient. It causes uterine cramping, which in early pregnancy can “force” a period. It is often used in conjunction with black cohosh, which “softens the blow” so to speak, because used alone, it is useful in reducing menstrual cramping.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the comment. Interesting about the use in combination — I didn’t know that. I had intended to mention blue cohosh’s use as an abortifacient, but it slipped my mind when I wrote the draft this morning.

      Reply

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