Medeola virginiana L.
Family: Liliaceae
Indian cucumber
[Medeola virginica ]
Medeola virginiana image
Rhizomes 3-8 × 1 cm, decaying every year. Stems 2-9 dm, white-woolly when young, 1-3 deciduous bracts below proximal leaf whorl. Leaf blades sessile or short-petiolate, becoming purple-tinged basally in fruit, 5-9(-12) in proximal whorl, 6-16 × 1.5-5 cm, 3(-5) in distal whorl, 2.5-5 × 1.5-4 cm. Tepals yellowish green, 6-10 mm. Fruits (5-)8-10(-14) mm diam. Seeds 3 mm. 2n = 14. Flowering late spring. Moist slopes, mesic woods; 0--1600 m; N.B., N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que.; Ala., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Miss., Mo., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis. The rhizome of Medeola virginiana has the taste and odor of cucumber and is edible. The whorled leaves look like those of the orchid Isotria verticillata. The Iroquois of eastern North America used M. virginiana as an anticonvulsive, pediatric aid (D. E. Moerman 1986).

Perennial herb with a horizontal rhizome flowering stem 20 cm - 0.8 m tall Leaves: in two whorls. Lower leaves five to twelve per whorl, 6 - 16 cm long, 1.5 - 5 cm wide, and oblong to lance-shaped with a tapering base and pointed tip. Upper leaves usually three per whorl (up to five), 2.5 - 6 cm long, 1.5 - 4 cm wide, and egg-shaped with a rounded, purple-tinged base and pointed tip. Inflorescence: a terminal, stalkless umbel of three to nine flowers on an upright stem. Flowers: stalked, nodding, greenish yellow, with six recurved tepals. Stamens six. Fruit: a few-seeded spherical berry, dark purple to black, 5 - 14 mm wide. Rhizome: 3 - 8 cm long, 1 cm wide, tuber-like, succulent.

Similar species: Medeola virginiana is the only species of the genus Medeola. There are no similar species.

Flowering: mid-May to mid-July

Habitat and ecology: Local in moist acid woodlands. Also found in bogs and in other acidic, shaded habitats.

Occurence in the Chicago region: native

Notes: The edible rhizome of this plant smells and tastes like cucumber.

Etymology: Medeola is named after a sorceress of Greek mythology named Medea. Virginiana means "of or from Virginia."

Author: The Morton Arboretum

Rhizome 3-8 cm, succulent, cucumber-flavored; stem erect, 3-7 dm, ±invested when young with flocculent wool which persists about the lf-bases; lower lvs 5-11 per whorl, oblong-oblanceolate, 6-12 cm, a fourth or a third as wide, acuminate at both ends; upper lvs normally 3 per whorl, ovate, 3-6 cm, half to two-thirds as wide, acuminate, becoming bright red at the more rounded base; umbel 3-9-fld; pedicels spreading or deflexed, 15-25 mm, becoming red; tep 7 mm; berry dark purple or black; 2n=14. Rich woods; N.S. and Que. to Mich. and se. Wis., s. to Va. and n. Mo., and in the mts. to Ga. and Ala.; also in Fla. and reputedly se. La. May-July.

Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.

©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Infrequent throughout the state although there are no records from the southwestern counties. In the hilly counties it is found mostly in deep, wooded ravines and northward it is found mostly in beech woods, on rather acid, sandy flats and on the lower parts of slopes about lakes and swamps.
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This project made possible by National Science Foundation Award 1410069