Common name: Indian Cucumber Root – The root has a mild cucumber taste and was consumed by Native Americans as a part of their regular diet (photo below).
Scientific Name: Mediola virginiana – The generic name is from Medea, a magical enchantress from Greek Mythology, reference to the purported magical curative powers of the plant. Medea is best known for leaving the dismembered body parts of her brother to distract her father from pursuit during her flight with Jason and the Golden Fleece.
Potpourri: The unusual structure of the Indian Cucumber Root calls to mind an epergne, a tiered ornamental stand with separate plates used as a table centerpiece. It is the only member of its genus, the magical name Mediola perhaps alluding to its unusual structure.
M. virginiana has historically had some medicinal uses. The root is mildly diuretic and was used to treat tissues swollen with fluids (edema). It was also chewed to a paste and used as fish bait on hooks. A tea made from the leaves was used to treat convulsions in children.