Yerba Mansa – Anemopsis californica

Yerba Mansa - Anemopsis californica, photos by Steven Foster

Overall At-Risk Score: 41

Latin name:

Anemopsis californica

Common Name:

Bear root, yerba mansa

Family:

Saururaceae (Lizard’s-tail family)

Lifespan:

Perennial

Reproduction:

Yerba mansa grows into a compact group of tiny bisexual flowers that grow in a conal shape and are surrounded by white petal-like leaves. They are commonly pollinated by bees and other native insect pollinators. Once the blooming is finished, the entire conal structure develops into a hard fruit that travels down rivers and streams to spread the plant’s seeds.

Geographic Region:

Yerba mansa is found in the southwestern U.S. and some of the states surrounding it. Specifically, it is found in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah. It is also found in parts of northwestern Mexico.

Habitat:

This plant requires moist soil and full sun and lives in marshes and creeks.

Vulnerability of Habitat/Changes of Habitat Quality and Availability:

As an obligate wetland plant, the biggest threat to yerba mansa is the rapidly shrinking wetlands it needs to survive. Yerba mansa needs moist soil and can only reproduce with the help of nearby sources of water.

Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):

No legal protections for Anemopsis californica exist.

Anemopsis californica has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN Red List.

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

Historically, yerba mansa was used primarily to disinfect and treat open wounds and sores, as well as to treat colds, coughs, and ulcers.

Demand:

Though not typically valued in horticulture, the demand for yerba mansa as a natural remedy is growing, and it is not uncommon to find it being sold as a tea or extract.

Recommendations For Industrial and Home Use:

Please talk to your doctor before attempting to take Anemopsis californica or any other medicinal plant. Yerba mansa is not a difficult plant to grow at home with the right care, and several viable options exist to obtain small plants or seed packets. If growing for medicinal use, planting the seeds in loose soil will make harvest easier and less disruptive for the plant.

Citations:

  • Bean, L. J. and Saubel, K., 1972, Temalpakh (From the Earth); Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants, Banning, CA. Malki Museum Press, page 38.
  • Bocek, Barbara R., 1984, Ethnobotany of Costanoan Indians, California, Based on Collections by John P. Harrington, Economic Botany 38(2):240-255, page 8.
  • Curtin, L. S. M., 1949, By the Prophet of the Earth, Sante Fe. San Vicente Foundation, page 78
  • EFloras. (n.d.). Lophophora williamsii in Flora of North America. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved August 22, 2019, from http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=220000730
  • Jones, Volney H., 1931, The Ethnobotany of the Isleta Indians, University of New Mexico, M.A. Thesis, page 22.
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2007, January 01). Plant Database: Anemopsis californica. Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=anca10
  • Romero, John B., 1954, The Botanical Lore of the California Indians, New York. Vantage Press, Inc., page 15.
  • Phillips, R. & Rix, M., Perennials Volume 1, Pan Books, 1991, ISBN 0-330-30936-9.
  • Zigmond, Maurice L., 1981, Kawaiisu Ethnobotany, Salt Lake City. University of Utah Press, page 11.
  • USDA, (n.d.), Plants Profile for Anemopsis californica (yerba mensa), Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ANCA10
    http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=220000730

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