Cover image by Cempasúchil Tattoo in Morelia via Facebook
An inquisitive botanist, Carmen Thierry, has posted on the Facebook page “Identificación de plantas mexicanas” an image of a plant she seeks the identification of. This is quite an attractive flower and, at first glance, my initial impression was that this was a variety of narrow leaved poreleaf (Porophyllum species) in the vein of chepiche/pipicha/pipitza although the closer I looked the more I saw hints of the Tagetes or possibly Adenophyllum/Dyssodia species.
Carmen was given a few identifications. These were disputed by others and this brings to the fore the need for correct identifications (specifically) when using them medicinally and (a little less so) (1) when using them culinarily. I have gone into this in greater detail in earlier posts (2).
- although you do need to be aware of poisonous look-alikes (there are none that I am aware of in any of the species mentioned in this Post)
- See Posts : A Note on Deer Weed : The Danger of Common Names; Dandelion? Identifying Wild Plants and Flor de Jamaica : A Confusion of Hibisci* for further information on this danger of mis-identfying a plant when using its common name.
Carmen came across the herb inside the San Miguel volcano in Santa Ana Tlacotenco, Milpa Alta (México).
As for the identifications offered.
Eduardo recommended Carmen check Tagetes multiflora or Dyssodia papposa and Gustavo recommended Porophyllum linaria as a contender. Garcia mentioned the Schkuhria species as a possible match and, when questioned on the validity of the identification (i.e. “there’s no such thing as that”) Garcia responded with a link to Schkuhria (1). Plantas Mexicans, from their Facebook page, put Tagetes coronopifolia forward as their contender (2). Another contender in the Tagetes family (T.erecta) was put forward by Jorge (who had studied at Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biológicas). This plant, also known as cempasuchil (3) is the marigold we all know for Dia de Muertos and is plainly not the flower in question. Of all responders, José Antonio seems to be the most qualified to comment. José studied Fitotecnia (4) at the Universidad de Guadalajara and noted that the inflorescence (5) is reminiscent of a Porophyllum but that the plant was neither a Dyssodia nor Tagetes multiflora. He also noted that The Genus Schkuhria passed to Picradeniopsis, but that it doesn’t match the identification either. So. Jose could tell me what it was not (kinda helpful I guess) but I’m more interested in what it might be. Is it edible? Is it medicinal? Lets find out.
- or any one of its other spellings – cempasúchil, sempasúchil, zempasúchil, cempoalxóchitl, cempaxóchitl, cempoal, zempoal or zempoalxochitl
- Fitotecnia – a type of Agricultural Engineering – Phytotechnics from the Greek , fito- or -fita , which means plant or vegetable and technia which means technique, is the subject that, based on technical scientific knowledge of the different scientific disciplines, investigates the biological , edaphic [of, produced by, or influenced by the soil], climatic, sanitary and technical foundations to optimize crop production; 1 applies them harmoniously to obtain plant products, useful to man, in the best economic, ecological and environmental conditions. Its main objective is to know the main climatic, edaphic and biological factors that control the activity of plants and their influence on them in order to be able to use techniques that modify the factors and improve production.
- An inflorescence is a collection of flowers in a particular branching pattern that does not contain full-size leaves among the flowers.
Eduardos first two recommendations were Tagetes multiflora or perhaps Dyssodia papposa. The flowers of the tagetes are somewhat similar but are quite different when compared to the dyssodia. The foliage of neither is a close enough match even to the untrained eye.
Tagetes multiflora Kunth
Synonym : Tagetes gracilis
Common Names : soiko, suiko (aymará), huacatay, wacatay (quechua)(1)
- Huacatay/wacatay is also called peruvian black mint but this plant is generally identified as another in the Marigold family, Tagetes minuta. See Post : Huacatay Tagetes minuta
Distribution: Antofagasta, Arica, Atacama and Tarapaca (in Chile) and Parinacota (on the border of Chile/Bolivia). A very similar range to that of Huacatay (T.minuta)
Culinary. The leaves are used to flavour different preparations, and as a substitute for coriander in pebre (1). It is also drunk as a hot beverage.
- A salsa which is (kind of) a cross between chimichurri and pico de gallo. It is commonly made with chopped cilantro, tomatoes, onions and garlic, along with olive oil, vinegar and usually a spice component like chili peppers. It is served everywhere in Chile to accompany a wide variety of dishes, and of course everyone has their own version.
Medicinal. An infusion of the above ground parts of the plant is drunk to relieve stomach pain and for abdominal distension. Mixed in infusion with pingo-pingo (Ephedra americana) and corn silk, it serves as a remedy to treat urinary infections.
The Dyssodia species contains a number of strongly scented family members and many have earned the moniker hierba de zorillo or “skunk weed” due to their penetrating aroma. I have Posted on this previously (1). One variety of the dyssodia skunk weeds (2) is in the herbal medicine classes taught by the Facultad de Ciencias Agrícolas (Faculty of Agricultural Sciences) at UAEM (Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México) (3)
- See Post : Papalo and Pipicha. Skunk Weed?
- Dyssodia porophylla (Syn Adenophyllum porophyllum (porophylloides) Hemsl.)
Scientific Name: Dyssodia papposa
Synonyms: (Boebera ciliosa, Boebera papposa, Dyssodia fastigiata, Tagetes papposa)
Common Names: Fetid Marigold, Micaelita (Mexico)
The genus Dyssodia (Dysso’dia:) is from the Greek word dysodia for “a disagreeable odour”.
Recorded Range: This plant occupies most of the Americas. The Dyssodia species is native throughout much of the United States. It is native to Mexico and into South America. It is considered an “introduced plant” in Canada. D. papposa, occurs from Canada to South America, while D. pinnata and D. tagetiflora are endemic to Mexico, and D. decipiens is confined to southern Mexico and Guatemala. All of these plants favour disturbed places and are commonly found as roadside weeds, on recently cleared land and other “weedy” habitats.
This herb has both culinary and medicinal uses. Amongst the Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero peoples it was used as a vegetable. The tops of the plant were cooked alone or with meat and used as greens. The Lakota were recorded as using it for its antihemorrhagic and analgesic properties. The strong scent of the plant was inhaled to treat headaches and a decoction of this plant (and another called gumweed) was taken for the “spitting of blood”. Amongst the Keres it was used as a febrifuge (fever reducing). The fresh or dried plant was either taken as an infusion or it was rubbed into the body. The use of the plant for “epileptic fits” via smoking was also noted. The Dakota peoples used it as a veterinary medicine and a decoction of the plant was given to horses with coughs and respiratory issues.
The Atlas de las Plantas de la Medicina Tradicional Mexicana calls this plant Micaelita and gives more detailed instructions on the use of this plant as a medicine. The plant seems to be used primarily for the treatment of various forms of empacho (See Posts : Empacho and What is Curanderismo? for more information on this condition)
It is frequently used in the treatment of digestive disorders such as diarrhea and stomach pain.In general, it is recommended to drink the decoction of the plant or flower three times a day. It is also used when there is vomiting, the flowers are boiled with branches of cinco llagas (Tagetes lunulata). The decoction of the flowers with parraleña (Dyssodia setifolia), is taken several times a day when there is an upset stomach in children. To deal with the insult (upset stomach caused by eating too much food or getting angry after eating), it is recommended to cook the plant with estrellita (Milla biflora) and cinco llagas, ingested as tea for 5 days, once a day.
In addition, it is advisable to drink the decoction of the flowers, at night, eight days before childbirth to facilitate it; and take it once a day if you have body pain.
Another Tagetes (T.lunulata) and another Dyssodia (D.setifolia) are mentioned in the description above. Lets have a quick look at them too.
Many authors consider that Tagetes patula L., a name applied to small-headed cultivated marigolds, is a synonym of Tagetes lunulata. But the issue is not yet fully resolved.
Common names : aceitilla, angelito, cempazuchil de campo, cempazuchil, cempasúchil silvestre, flor de muerto, cinco llagas (Five Wounds – no doubt a reference to the stigmata of Jesus), (Nahuatl names) Acocotzatl, Acocozatl, Cocoyatón, Tepetonalxochitl, Cocozatona, Iumu takisi (purépecha language), re’engajo.
Origin area : From northern Mexico to Central America and perhaps northern South America.
Distribution in Mexico : There are many on the side of the roads or near the crops. They are also found in the oak forests and on the tops of the hills of Tepoztlán. It is reported as a weed in Aguascalientes, Federal District, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, State of Mexico, Michoacán, Morelos, Querétaro, Tlaxcala and Zacatecas (Villaseñor and Espinosa, 1998).
Medicinal use : The whole herb is aromatic, digestive, diuretic and sedative. It is used internally in the treatment of stomach pain, indigestion, colic, severe constipation, coughs, diarrhoea and dysentery. Externally, it is used to treat sore eyes and rheumatism. The leaves are harvested as required for immediate use during the growing season, whilst the flowering plant can be dried and stored for later use.
The Tagetes species has many members which are useful (and valuable) culinary and medicinal plants. I have Posted on this subject previously (1).
T. lunulata and T. micrantha are regularly used as medicinal and flavouring plants
T.lucida and T. micrantha are hot quality plants as they tend to “temper” the stomach, while for T. lunulata, opinion was divided with some mentioning that it is cold in nature and others that it is hot. As Foster (1988) indicates, people commonly use hot plants to counteract cold illnesses, for example, respiratory illnesses (colds and flu), as well as some digestive disorders (white dysentery, flatulence and menstrual cramps). Likewise, it is taken into consideration that bitter and very aromatic plants tend to be recognized within the category of hot plants (Foster, 1988), as happens in the three species studied, since T. lucida and T. micrantha are appreciated for the strongly aniseed odour, while T. lunulata was perceived as having a strong odour and a bitter taste.
1. See Posts : Cempasuchil; Pericón : Tagetes lucida; Huacatay Tagetes minuta; The Pore Leaf in Peru; Mexican Mint Marigold; Papalo and Pipicha. Skunk Weed? and Empacho for more information on the medicinal uses of various plants in this species (and for several recipes for its use as a culinary herb)
Syn. Thymophylla setifolia Lag.; Hymenantherum setifolium (Lag.)
Common names (Spanish) : Parraleña, peluda (Villareal, 2003) arnica, engorda cabra (fatten [the/a] goat), hierba buena, ojo de pollo (chicken eye) (Solano-Picazo 2018).
Common names (English) : Texas pricklyleaf.
Medicinal use : Amongst the Wirikuta it was noted the infusion of this plant was used for the treatment of cough and a nutritive drink for newborns. Studies have been made of the nutrient content of this herb and it is fairly impressive (Maiti etal 2016). It has an exceptionally high iron content and it was recommended that pharmacological studies should be made to confirm its possible efficacy in blood purification, haemoglobin function and blood circulation. Maiti (etal 2016) also notes its use for the treatment of fever.
Porophyllum linaria (syn P.tagetoides, Kleinia tagetoides ): chepiche, chepito, pipicha, pipitza, pipitzcaquilitl (Nahuatl), tepicha, quelite oaxaqueño, escobeta, papalo delgado (thin papalo), Cole de coyote (coyote tail), yerba de la venado, nlí-dún (Zapotec)
I have Posted on this herb previously. See the following Posts for more detail. There are similarities between this plant and the one in question but, much like the Tagetes multiflora, there are not nearly enough for it to be a match.
- Chepiche/Pipicha : Porophyllum tagetoides
- Porophyllums : Medicinal Utility : A Recap
- Pipitzcaquilitl : Porophyllum obtusifolium?
Now we get to the Schkuhria (the one that “doesn’t exist”)
Origin area : Mexico (Rzedowski and Rzedowski, 2001).
Distribution in Mexico : It has been recorded in Aguascalientes, Federal District, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, State of Mexico, Michoacán, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Yucatán (Villaseñor and Espinosa, 1998; the Yucatán report is possibly wrong ). It is also reported from Zacatecas.
Immigration status in Mexico : Native.
Habitat : In flooded places, canal banks and as weeds (Rzedowski and Rzedowski, 2001); places of moist grassland soil, as well as as ruderal and sometimes weedy ( Villareal et al ., 2006 ).
Altitudinal distribution : In the Bajío from 1700 to 2000 m ( Villareal et al ., 2006 ); in the Valley of Mexico at 2250 m (Rzedowski and Rzedowski, 2001).
A Schkuhria that has known medicinal usage is S.pinnata.
Schkuhria pinnata (also called canchalagua, tlanchalagua)
Canchalagua grows in abundance in the Andean valleys of Peru.
The Quechua people (Quichua, Kitchwa) of the Andes have traditionally used this plant to treat a large number of conditions and ailments – they have used it as a bactericide in open wounds, to treat acne, malaria and inflammation, and as a blood purifier and diuretic. (Echeverria etal 2020)
Canchalagua is an herb that is known to: eliminate toxins in organism, relieve diabetes and acne, facilitate digestion, purify the blood, and clean the skin. (Bussman etal 2008)
Actions : antibacterial, antimycotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-malaria, purification of blood, liver healing properties
- 3-5 g pour with 700ml of cold water, then boil and cook on small fire for 5-10 minutes, then drain. Drink the brew 3 times a day
- For the external use for stains, eczema, rash – prepare the decoction in a similar way but with less water.
WARNING : exceptionally sensitive users can have photodynamic reaction similar to one after hypericum
A nice plant but certainly not the one. José also mentioned the species change from Schkuhria to Picradeniopsis (which we’ll have a quick look at) but he is certainly correct when he says that neither is a match. The Picradeniopsis family looks interesting.
Picradeniopsis dealbata : Common name : Aceitilla amarilla. In Guanajuato this plant is used as a treatment for diarrhoea; in Durango its use to heal wounds and pimples on the skin has been recorded. The treatment includes the leaves and the stem (or the entire aerial part) made into an infusion or decoction to be administered orally or in the form of washes.
P. oppositifolia has been reported to contain antileukemic compounds (Herz etal 1980)
Picradeniopsis woodhousei (Gray) Rydb : The Zuni peoples (1) have been recorded as using this plant as a stomachic (2). An infusion of the root was taken for stomach-ache. It was also used for its emetic (3) properties, an infusion of whole plant taken for ‘sick stomach.’ (vomiting ensued). It was also used as a dermatological aid : a poultice of chewed root applied to sores and rashes.
- The Zuni (formerly spelled Zuñi) are Native American Pueblo peoples native to the Zuni River valley. The Zuni are a Federally recognized tribe and most live in the Pueblo of Zuni on the Zuni River, a tributary of the Little Colorado River, in western New Mexico, United States.
- Stomachic is a historic term for a medicine that serves to tone the stomach, improving its function and increase appetite. While many herbal remedies claim stomachic effects, modern pharmacology does not have an equivalent term for this type of action.
- a medicine or other substance which causes vomiting.
After all the toing and froing a winner was crowned. Tagetes coronopifolia came out on top as the identity for this attractive (and useful) quelite.
Origin area : Mexico.
Distribution in Mexico : It has been reported in Chiapas, Coahuila, Federal District, State of Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala and Veracruz (Villaseñor and Espinosa, 1998).
Immigration status in Mexico : Native.
Habitat : Preferably under disturbed conditions, sometimes as weeds, mainly on the slopes of volcanoes in central-southern Mexico. Quercus forests , Juniperus and grasslands.
Distribution by type of bioclimatic zones : Pine-oak forest.
Altitudinal distribution : In the Valley of Mexico up to 3000 m
Applications : In traditional medicine it has been used (as an infusion) against cough and chest pain but there is practically no ethnobotanical information to be found on the plant.
- Abdala, L. (1999). FLAVONOIDS IN Tagetes coronopifolia WILD (ASTERACEAE). Acta Hortic. 501, 219-222 DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1999.501.34
- Barrier, Elizabeth; Meza, Ines; Muñoz, Mélica , “The medicinal and nutritional use of native and naturalized plants in Chile” , in “Occasional Publication 33” , National Museum of Natural History, Santiago de Chile, 1981
- Brown, Oriana; Pizarro, José Luis , “Botanical species consumed by pre-Hispanic Chileans” , 2005 , p. 166-167
- Bussmann, Rainer & Sharon, Douglas & Díaz, Doris & Barocio, Yasmin & Resumen, Resumen. (2008). Peruvian plants canchalagua (Schkuhria pinnata (Lam.) Kuntze), hercampuri (Gentianella alborosea (Gilg.) Fabris), and corpus way (Gentianella bicolor (Wedd.) J. Pringle). Arnaldoa. 15. 149 – 152.
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