Packera aurea (A.K.A. Senecio aureus)
Golden groundsel, butterweed,
life root, squaw weed,
uncum root, waw weed,
false valerian, cough weed,
female regulator, cocash weed,
many were the handles
for which you once were plucked,
used as a uterine tonic, an ingredient
in Lydia Pinkham’s famous compound
(mostly alcohol) for “hysteria,”
feeble appetite, irregular menses,
cramps & backaches, prescribed
even to men for breathing troubles,
swollen testicles or sore perineum—
until the discovery of alkaloids
that can damage the liver.
“Life root,” indeed!
Now you spread in peace again
through wet woods & meadows.
Your small suns open
only for the cinnabar moth,
who mines your heart-shaped leaves
with her terrible eggs.