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Adam & Eve Root: Rant + a Crash Course in Corms

adam and eve adam and eve root orchid plants psa root rootwork education

Cover image adapted from Corms by Gerrit Davidse, CC by NC SA.

Breaking with my usual practice, I am NOT going to cite this source, because the whole point of this post is how incredibly freakin’ stupid it is, and in any case, what we have here is one plant-ignorant person posing as an expert and printing bullshit who has copied this misinformation from some other plant-ignorant person posing as an expert, so it’s a whole serpent-eating-its-own-tail type of mess and there’s definitely not a single guilty party to point to as an originator. [1]

And my goal here is not mockery for its own sake – rather, it’s for you to not spend your hard-earned money on bullshit but to educate yourself so you don’t uncritically accept whatever you see on eBay and Pinterest. (Or in books on Amazon by self-proclaimed hoodoo experts.)

Here’s the recently published stack of malarkey in question.

If the author had just stuck with that ubiquitous photo of an acorn and a bud – the one that is *all over the internet* with the caption “Adam and Eve root” – that would be one thing. We could maybe just go, “Oh, yeah, that acorn-and-bud combo that some huckster decided to start passing off as the valuable hoodoo herb a couple of decades ago. That’s adorable. Bless their hearts.”

But they didn’t do that. Nope, they went for it – they gave the Latin binomial, which completely jettisons any claim they could have laid to a bare minimum of competence as writers, researchers, or rootworkers. In identifying that crap in the picture as Aplectrum hyemale, they aren’t just saying, “Here’s an herb that lots of people call Adam and Eve root.” That would be a true statement, even though I wouldn’t hit a hog in the behind with that acorn-and-bud combo for use in love work – has all the magical efficacy of a flattened tuna tin on the side of the highway.

But no – they just print some total horse shit. And it is easily verifiable as total and utter horseshit if you spend literally 30 seconds with Google. So the level of research here is just… honestly, they didn’t even try.

Alrighty then, let’s have a crash course in corms so you can avoid being swindled.

The thing we call Adam and Eve root that comes from Aplectrum hyemale or closely related members of the orchid family is technically not a root at all. It’s actually a corm, which looks like a bulb but is really a swollen stem base that stores nutrients. (A bulb is just a dense little bundle of immature leaves. Corms don’t have layers like bulbs do.) The roots proper grow out of the corm. [2]

But when we talk about Adam and Eve root in hoodoo, we’re talking about the corms. That’s what folks used to use. A young plant will only have one corm. An older plant will develop a second corm extending out of the first one, so then we have a “pair” of “roots” from the same plant, one Adam and one Eve.

As you might gather, they don’t look drastically different, both being corms. Neither of them looks like a Balm of Gilead bud or an acorn or a peanut or whatever, and as a pair, they certainly don’t look like what you get in a package when you order Adam and Eve roots commercially.

Now as far as I know, it’s still pretty much impossible to buy real Adam and Eve root dried and commercially packaged. And if you find some out hiking, you should generally leave it alone. To quote the New England Plant Conservation Program [3]:

This species is rare throughout much of its range from southern Canada (Quebec and Ontario), to Georgia, and west to Oklahoma and Minnesota, with only Virginia and North Carolina listing the species as secure. In New England, the species is known from five current occurrences (one in Vermont, four in Massachusetts) with populations generally consisting of only a few individuals. Aplectrum hyemale is presumed extirpated from at least one state, Connecticut, and is listed as critically imperiled (S1) in Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. (i)

This plant is endangered in many states and is legally protected, so don’t screw with it if you find it in the wild.

But if you’re into growing your own, it’s totally doable. You’ll just need to be patient, buy your plant when it’s available and the nursery is shipping it (which will often NOT be year-round), and do your research on how to care for it.

(Note that because the second corm develops as an offshoot from the first corm after the first growing season, you cannot just buy a live plant and get your Adam and Eve root that way. If you buy a live plant, you’ll have just an Adam root, no Eve. You must be patient and learn how to grow an orchid :)

[1] At least not one that features in this blog post lol, because I haven’t tracked down where this bullshit started. But seeing as cat yronwode mentions her shock upon ordering Adam and Eve root several decades ago and being sold what she described as packaged pairs of Balm of Gilead buds and “somethings” that might have been peanuts, I imagine she might have a good idea where this started. I can’t say it any better than she does: “[O]nly God can make a root, and . . . He sure doesn’t make orchid roots grow on poplar trees” (HHRM 16).

Yronwode, Catherine. Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure. The Lucky Mojo Curio Company: Forestville, CA. 2002.

[2] Wood, Alphonso. Class-book of Botany: Being Outlines of the Structure, Physiology, and Classification of Plants: With a Flora of the United States and Canada. Rev. ed. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1875.

[3] Richburg, Julie A. Aplectrum hyemale (Muhl. ex Willd.) Nutt. (Puttyroot) Conservation and Research Plan for New England. New England Wild Flower Society, Framingham, Massachusetts. 2004.

Part of A Bayou Hoodoo Herbal.

Cover image adapted from Corms by Gerrit Davidse, CC by NC SA.

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