Ancient people, especially American Indians, used plants for medicinal and other purposes.

American Indians dried and powdered the seeds for use in different food items like bread, soups and puddings. They also used the oil for cooking, and making soaps and paints.


■Jack-ink-the-pulpit or Indian turnip was also used by the Indians. They would make the root edible by letting it dry in the sun for a long time, to get rid of the poison. The Indians also boiled and ate the root (which tasted like potatoes) of the Arrowhead or Duck potato. The starch obtained from the roots of the Arrowroot plant was used by American Indians to take out the poison from wounds inflicted by arrows. So it was named arrowroot by early settlers.


■Calamus was also called the perfume plant. The European and early American settlers dried its leaves and used them to cover the floors of the house. The sweet smell perfumed the whole house.

May Apple

■The May apple looks like a little green umbrella. It was used by the traditional Indian medicine men. They boiled the poisonous root, and used the water to cure stomach aches.


■Cattails or Cossack asparagus (called so because the Cossacks ate the roots), was also used by the Indians as food. Moreover, the leaves were used to stuff mattresses, weave chairs and make decorations. Horsetails were used in the past to scour or clean pots, so they were also called scouring rushes.

Staghorn Sumac

■The Staghorn Sumac usually changes color first to herald the autumn. American Indians dried the red berries at the end of summer. Later, they mashed them and mixed them with water to make a cool, sour drink, something like pink lemonade. However, the species with white berries is poisonous.

Common Clover

■The common clover was thought to be magical, specially the three or four leaf variety. Therefore, it was used more for good luck! Part of the belief may have been due to the fact that it makes the soil rich, and bees make fine honey from its blossoms. In more recent times, flowers have been used to convey messages, sometimes very diverse.

Red rose

■A red rose is used to convey an expression of love. On the other hand, a yellow rose declares that one is jealous, while a white one is a compliment to tell a lady that she is charming and good. However, yellow flowers signify grief or separation in Chile and Mexico.

Pink Carnations

■Pink carnations are commonly gifted on Mothers’ day. A red carnation conveys admiration, and a white carnation is a good luck gift to a woman. On the other hand, Carnations are considered funeral flowers in some countries like France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Poland and Turkey.

White Jasmine

■White jasmine indicates cheerfulness, while a yellow one is supposed to be a sign of timidity. A white lily symbolizes motherhood and sincerity, a purple violet stands for modesty, and an orange lily conveys hatred.

Even today, plants and flowers have some unusual uses.

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