Epimedium is a genus of flowering plants. This genus belongs to the Berberidaceae family. There are around 50 species. Some common names of Epimedium are barrenwort, bishop’s hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, rowdy lamb herb, randy beef grass or yin yang huo.
All species of Epimedium are herbaceous perennials. They grow from an underground rhizome. Their growth habits, however, vary greatly. While some have solitary stems, others have a “tufted” base, with multiple stems growing close together. The leaves may be solitary on the stem from the base or may have multiple leaves. The actual leaves are usually compound with three leaflets and spiny margins. Usually the leaves are annual, making the plant hardier and longer lasting, classifying it as an evergreen.
Individual flowers of Epimedium have parts: four inner and outer sepals and four petals. Often they are brightly colored and contain a nectar producing spur that may be longer than the petals. There are four stamens.
Quite a few species of the Epimedium genus have qualities that make it an aphrodisiac. According to local legend, the quality of the herb was discovered by a Chinese goat herder who noticed an increased amount of sexual activity in his flock after they ate the weed. It is sold as a health supplement in raw, tablet or capsule form.
The majority of this genus is located throughout China. Some varieties of the plant have been cultivated in western civilization for the last 150 years.
Image Caption: Rowdy lamb herb (Epimedium versicolor). Credit: Meneerke bloem/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, 1.0)