Various preparations made from the roots, leaves or the ashes of burnt bride’s feathers (Aruncus dioicus) were used by many Native Americans for a variety of ailments including blood diseases, smallpox, tuberculosis, bee stings, sores, swelling, bleeding, gonorrhea and as a diuretic and an aid in childbirth.
This native perennial grows in moist forests and clearings and along streams from lowlands to subalpine elevations. A member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae), bride’s feathers can generally be found in East and West Coast States and Provinces, being absent through the center of the continent.
Bride’s feathers has several hairless stems that grow up to six feet in height rising from short, stout, creeping rhizomes.
The lower leaves of bride’s feathers are usually 3X compound with sharply toothed and pointed leaflets. The upper leaves are smaller and less compounded. The alternate leaves are green and hairless above and hairy and paler below.
Male and female flowers occur on separate bride’s flowers plants. The tiny, white flowers with petals that drop off early are densely packed in elongated terminal clusters. The inflorescence is much divided and resembles a filmy spray. The flowers have either 15 to 20 stamens or 3 to 5 pistils, depending on sex.
Bride’s feathers fruits are straw-colored follicles.
Other common names for A dioicus are goat’s beard and buck’s beard. I simply like the sound of bride’s feathers better than goat’s beard so I use that name. However, the genus name comes from the Greek “aryngos” meaning goat’s beard and refers to the long clusters of white flowers. The species designation, dioicus, indicates that the male and female flowers occur on separate plants.
These bride’s feathers were photographed in June along the Lower McCloud River (Shasta County CA) on the trail to the Nature Conservancy’s caretaker’s residence.