FOLA ‘Thank You’ Program Features Talk on Medicinal Plants of the Civil War

At left, Barbara Hegranes, Membership Chairperson of Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum, with guest speaker, Dr. Lesley Parness.

Friends of Laurelwood Arboretum opened its 2015 membership year with a talk at the Wayne Public Library on, “Medicinal Plants of the Civil War” given by Dr. Lesley Parness. Dr. Parness is Superintendent of Horticultural Education at the Morris County Park Commission and president of the Garden State Gardens Consortium.

Dr. Parness quoted General Ulysseys S. Grant as saying, “I will not move my army without onions.” This reflects the importance of plants in treating the sick and wounded during the Civil War. “The books known as Medicinal Botanies revolutionized plant-based medicine of the period and brought about the rise of today’s giant pharmaceutical companies,” she said. The illustrated texts, used by physicians in both the Union and Confederate armies, described the properties, uses, preparation and administration of a wide variety of plants.

Dr. Parness illustrated her presentation with photographs of the plants in common use during the Civil War and detailed their medicinal properties. Many of these plants are found in gardens and in the wild today. These include poppies, heuchera, foxglove, lobelia, liatris, bloodroot, licorice, horehound, dogwood, witch hazel and many others.

Organizations who wish to reserve the hour-long program on Medicinal Plants of the Civil War can contact Dr. Parness at

More than 60 people attended the program, which was planned as a special thank you to FOLA members, donors and the Master Gardeners of Passaic County, who have done so much to support the organization’s efforts to preserve and maintain Laurelwood Arboretum.

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