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Yerba mansa is a perennial plant that is native to southwestern US and is in the Saururaceae family. Interestingly, yerba mansa means "calming herb" in Spanish (yerba is herb and mansa is calm or tranquil). The true name once was Yerba del Manso. There are many medicinal uses for this plant such as a treatment for abrasions, cuts, burns; helps with gastrointestinal upsets; a poultice for rheumatism and a tonic for blood purification.
This is a beautiful plant that produces unique white flowers in the early spring that remain on the plant until it starts to go dormant in late summer. Due to its creeping rootstocks, it will often spread out like a carpet throughout damper soils choking out any other plants in the area. Once dormant this plant basically disappears from late summer to early winter, then re-sprouts from the roots in late winter. The entire plant takes on red tints in cold snaps and turns brick red in the autumn.
In early spring (February to April) numerous tiny white flowers are borne on a cone which is surrounded by 4 to 9 large white spoon-shaped bracts that look like petals. As it matures, the visible part of the plant develops red stains, eventually turning bright red in the fall.
The fleshy, deep green leaves occur as a basal formation. Leaf blades measure 3 to 20 cm (1 to 8”) they are elliptic to oblong, sometimes the base is cordate. The petiole measures 2 to 40 cm (.7 to 16”). Leaves are generally subsessile to clasping.
This plant grows to 30cm (1') tall and 60cm (2') wide.
Yerba mansa prefers wet locations, especially in alkaline or saline marshy places below 2000 metres. It prefers full sun to part shade. to According to the USDA, this plant grows in Oregon and California and reaches to as far east as Texas, including Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. It also grows in northwestern Mexico.
Root can be consumed raw or cooked; it has a peppery flavour. Pulverized seeds can be used to make bread or added into other dishes.
A heartfelt thank you goes to Jeff Cuneo in California for providing all the images for this plant page. Much appreciated Jeff!
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