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An Indian pink, also known by the common names woodland pinkroot or simply pinkroot, is a wildflower of the species Spigelia marilandica. These flowering plants are herbaceous, meaning that their stems and leaves die off after their growing season is complete. They are also perennials, meaning that they will continue to grow and blossom for many growing seasons. The Indian pink is indigenous to the southeastern part of the United States, and is often grown as a decorative plant in gardens. Historically, Native Americans used the plant in ceremonies and rituals and also used its roots medicinally.
Indian pink usually reaches an average height of about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters), and an average width of about 1.5 feet (45 centimeters). Despite its name, none of the plant's parts are pink. It has deep green, elliptical leaves that grow in pairs on opposite sides of its stem. The flowers of the Indian pink are red and yellow; the lower part of each flower is a deep red tube from which five bright yellow, pointed petals emerge. These flowers typically bloom in the late spring, usually around the month of May.
The Indian pink can be cultivated in a variety of ways. Plants may be started by dividing their roots or from stem cuttings. They also produce seed pods after their flowers have finished blooming, and these may be harvested and used to plant anew the following year. It is also possible to harvest plants from the wild, but most horticulturists advise against this practice as Indian pink is becoming increasingly rare in the wild.
These flowering plants are usually found growing in the wild in lowland forests and along the banks of streams. Since the plants are accustomed to growing in wooded areas, they tend to prefer shady growing conditions, although some varieties may also thrive in full sun. The Indian pink also prefers to grow in soil that is moist and fertile, and needs regular watering so that the soil it is growing in does not dry out.
The roots and all other plant parts of the Indian pink contain an alkaloid called spigeline, which is poisonous. However, in small doses, the plant also has medicinal uses. It is particularly useful in the treatment of parasites, such as tapeworm and roundworm. Doses of the root extract must be accompanied by a laxative to avoid some of the more unpleasant side effects caused by spigeline, which include dizziness, visual disturbances, increased heart rate, muscle spasms, and in extreme cases, death.