AskDefine | Define silverweed

Dictionary Definition

silverweed

Noun

1 any of various twining shrubs of the genus Argyreia having silvery leaves and showy purple flowers
2 low-growing perennial having leaves silvery beneath; northern United States; Europe; Asia [syn: goose-tansy, goose grass, Potentilla anserina]

Extensive Definition

Argentina anserina, commonly known as Silverweed, is a flowering perennial plant in the rose family Rosaceae. It is native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere, often on river shores and in grassy habitats such as meadows and road-sides. The plant was formerly classified in the genus Potentilla but has recently been reclassified into the new genus Argentina.
Silverweed is a low-growing herbaceous plant with creeping red stolons up to 80 cm long. The leaves are 10-20 cm long, evenly pinnate into in crenate leaflets 2-5 cm long and 1-2 cm broad, covered with silky white hairs, particularly on the underside. These hairs are also present on the stem and the stolons. These give the leaves the silvery appearance from which the plant gets its name.
The flowers are produced singly on 5-15 cm long stems, 1.5-2.5 cm diameter with five (rarely up to seven) yellow petals. The fruit is a cluster of dry achenes.
It is difficult to distinguish A. anserina from A. egedii (the only other species in the genus), the two taxa only differing in characters of the hairs; some botanists treat A. egedii as a subspecies of A. anserina.
Silverweed is most often found in sandy or gravelly soils, where it may spread rapidly by its prolific rooting stolons. It typically occurs in inland habitats, unlike A. egedii, which is a salt-tolerant coastal saltmarsh plant.

Cultivation and uses

Herbal tea from the underground roots is used to help delivery, and as antispasmodic for diarrhea. The plant was also put in shoes to absorb sweat. Howard (1987) states that it was formerly used as a treatment for epilepsy, and that it could ward off witches and evil spirits.
The plant has been cultivated as a food crop for its edible roots. The usual wild forms, however, are impractical for this use, as they are small and are hard to clean. It may also become a problem weed in gardens.

Etymology and folklore

The pre-Linnaean name anserina means "of the goose" (Anser), either because the plant was used to feed them or because the leaves reminded of the bird's footmarks.
A rich folklore has developed around Silverweed. The plant bears the common name of richette in French, being rich through both silver and gold.

References

  • Plante sauvage des villes, desa champs et en bordure des chemins
silverweed in Czech: Mochna husí
silverweed in Danish: Gåse-Potentil
silverweed in German: Gänsefingerkraut
silverweed in Spanish: Argentina anserina
silverweed in French: Potentille ansérine
silverweed in Upper Sorbian: Husacy porstnik
silverweed in Dutch: Zilverschoon
silverweed in Polish: Pięciornik gęsi
silverweed in Russian: Лапчатка гусиная
silverweed in Finnish: Ketohanhikki
silverweed in Swedish: Gåsört
silverweed in Ukrainian: Перстач гусячий
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