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American sweet flag
Acorus americanus USFS-1.jpg
Scientific classification
Genus:
Acorus
Species:
americanus

Acorus americanus, the American sweet flag, is an emergent wetland plant native to the northern United States and Canada. This perennial plant has bright green blade-shaped leaves that arise directly from the rhizomes and sheath into each other at the base. Additionally the blades have 2-6 raised veins, and a swollen center when viewed in cross section. The foliage has a citrus-like spicy aromatic quality, and can be used to flavor beer. It is a flowering plant with inconspicuous flowers that are arranged on a lateral spadix (a thickened, fleshy axis) and the fertilized flowers produce berries with a jelly inside. This plant is protected as a state endangered species in Pennsylvania.

Etymology

The name "Acorus" is derived from the Greek word 'acoron', a name used by Dioscorides, which in turn was derived from 'coreon', meaning 'pupil', because it was used in herbal medicine as a treatment for inflammation of the eye.

The species name, "americanus" simply indicates that this is an American species of this genus, differentiating it from the very similar European and western Asian species Acorus calamus.

Taxonomy

Acorus americanus was formerly classified as Acorus calamus var. americanus. It differs only in being a fertile diploid (2n = 24)], whereas most of the A. calamus of Europe and Asia is a sterile triploid species, that only spreads asexually. Diploid plants in northern Asia may be representatives of A. americanus. Also as a diploid it does not produce b-asarone.

Uses

This plant was used extensively by Native Americans and early European settlers.

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