Veronicastrum virginicum, also known as Culver’s Root, is a tall, hardy perennial with lovely whorled leaves. In the early and middle summer, the plants are topped with prickly racemes that are densely packed with small tubular white florets. The inflorescences have many branches that resemble a beautiful candelabra. Prairies, damp meadows, and open forests are ideal natural habitats for these plants.
Hardy herbaceous perennials called Veronicastrums provide the yard with powerful vertical accents. They are a great choice for planting at the back of a layered garden, cottage garden or wildflower garden. Their common names include whorlywort, black root, Bowman’s toot, and culver’s root. They originated in eastern North America, East Asia, China, Siberia, Japan, Korea, and Sakhalin Island. They bloom from June to September and have an interesting structure in the fall and winter.
Growing and Planting Culver’s Root
They can survive most soil types and can be found in a variety of diverse environments, including woodlands, meadows, riverbanks, and thickets. However, they thrive in sandy or loamy soil with adequate rainfall in the sun or partial shade.
In average, medium to wet, well-drained soil with full light they are simple to cultivate. Culver’s Root tolerates light shade (and likes some afternoon shadow in the deep South). If grown in too much shade, it tends to droop and needs support. The soil can withstand most soil as long as it is kept moist. Simple or mature clumps can be divided for further growth, and in the fall, fresh seeds can be put in the cold frame.
Late in the fall, direct sow, pressing the seed into the soil’s top layer. For planting in the spring, combine the seeds with wet sand and keep them in the fridge for 60 to 90 days before planting. Do not overwater; keep the soil just a little bit damp until germination.
It is important to prevent soil from drying out. Downy mildew can be problematic when in full growth and during damp conditions. Damaged leaves can be readily removed, and the flower spikes won’t be harmed. It typically takes this plant several years to become established in the garden.
Pest and Problems
Culver’s Root are generally free of pests and illnesses. However, black leaf spots can appear in some cultivars’ lower leaves in dry seasons. The taller members of this group, such as Veronicastrums virginicum ‘Lavendelturm’ and Veronicastrums virginicum ‘Fascination,’ occasionally show a tinge of downy mildew in exceptionally dry conditions.
In moist or improperly drained soils, root rot can develop. Although it is against the law for rabbits and deer to attack veronicastrums, I have discovered to my dismay, that some of them don’t appear to be aware of this.
Depending on the species, new veronicastrum plants can be created through division, cuttings, or seed. Root cuttings are also a possibility, as I’ve discovered. Prairie plants like Veronicastrums go nicely with tall grasses like Panicum virgatum, Molinia caerulea, and Calamagrostis x acutiflora.
Veronicastrums are hardy enough to handle some of the thugs of the prairies, such as Eupatorium, Silphium, and Helianthus, though they can be slightly overpowered by much stronger growing grasses, such as Miscanthus Sinensis. Perennials are good companions, such as monardas, phlox, rudbeckias, salvias, and nepetas.
Medicinal Use of Culver’s Root
Native Americans employed the root’s laxative and emetic powers. They thought that the root treated seizures, typhus, “bilious” fevers, chills, diarrhea, and constipation and helped women deliver babies. Chronic dysentery and diarrhea are both treated by V. virginicum.
The roots contain volatile oil, extractives, tannic acid, gum, resin, crystalline principles, mannite-like saccharine principles, and glucosides that resemble senegin. Leptandrin, a resin that can be extracted from the plant’s root using either water or alcohol, is thought to contain the active ingredient. When the root is dried, its qualities are considerably less extreme than when it is new, which can produce severe vomiting and stimulate the formation of bile.