Veratrum viride (Indian Poke, Indian Hellebore, False Hellebore, Green False Hellebore) is a species of Veratrum native to eastern and western (but not central) North America. It is extremely toxic, and is considered a pest plant by farmers with livestock. The species has acquired a large number of common names within its native range, including American False Hellebore, American White Hellebore, Bear Corn, Big Hellebore, Corn Lily, Devils Bite, Duck Retten, Indian Hellebore, Itch-weed, Itchweed, Poor Annie, and Tickleweed.
It is a herbaceous perennial plant reaching 0.7–2 m tall, with a solid green stem. The leaves are spirally arranged, 10–35 cm long and 5–20 cm broad, elliptic to broad lanceolate ending in a short point, heavily ribbed and hairy on the underside. The flowers are numerous, produced in a large branched inflorescence 30–70 cm tall; each flower is 5–12 mm long, with six green to yellow-green tepals. The fruit is a capsule 1.5–3 cm long, which splits into three sections at maturity to release the numerous flat 8–10 mm diameter seeds. The plant reproduces through rhizome growth as well as seeds.
There are two varieties:
The related western North American Veratrum californicum (White False Hellebore, Corn Lily) can be distinguished from sympatric var. eschscholzianum by its whiter flowers, with erect side branches of the inflorescence.
It is found in wet soils in meadows, sunny streambanks, and open forests, from sea level in the north of the range, up to 1,600 m in the southeast and 2,500 m in the southwest.
It is used externally by several Native American nations. Although is rarely ever used in modern herbalism due to its concentration of various alkaloids, it has been used in the past against high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat; a standardized extract of V. viride alkaloids known as alkavervir was used in the 1950s and 1960s as an antihypertensive. The root contains even higher concentrations than the aerial parts.
The plant was used by some tribes to elect a new leader. All the candidates would eat the root, and the last to start vomiting would become the new leader.
Research from University of Virginia, Division of Medical Toxicology has provided new information about immunoglobulins.
Aug 07, 2010; New investigation results, 'Ingestion of false hellebore plants can cross-react with a digoxin clinical chemistry assay,' are...