This week’s plant for #WildEdibleWednesday is Tiarella cordifolia, or Heartleaf Foamflower. Although popular in cultivation as an ornamental groundcover, foamflower has been used as a medicinal plant for centuries. Its scientific name can be broken down into “tiara” (the Greek word for turban) which refers to its flowers, and “cordifolia” (meaning heart-shaped leaves).
Called foamflower for its dense, feathery white flower stalks that look a bit like sprays of foam, this plant is a herbaceous perennial spreading rhizome. Its leaves are 2”-4” long, basal (growing directly out of the ground), and roughly heart-shaped. They are a gray-green mottled color and covered in fine hairs on both sides. The white flower stalks are usually between 6” and 12” tall. It has no deadly or toxic mimics.
Native to the eastern woodlands from Nova Scotia to Georgia and from the piedmont to the Mississippi, it prefers cool shaded areas near water. Look for it in creek and river bottoms, and the further you get up into the mountains, the more common it is. Foamflower can be found abundantly in the Cohutta Wilderness and on the Appalachian Trail at places like Three Forks.
Like yellowroot last week, foamflower is not considered an edible plant. Its uses are primarily medicinal. Also like yellowroot, its primary medicinal uses are as a treatment of liver and kidney issues. All parts of the plant are medicinally useful, but a tea made from the leaves and roots has the most medicinal benefits. It is a hepatic, stimulating liver function and supporting liver health. As a diuretic, it can help treat bladder or kidney infections, as well as prevent kidney stones. The tea can also be used as a treatment for mouth sores, sore throats, and oral fungal infections like a coated tongue. The leaves and roots also make a great topical poultice to treat small cuts, scrapes, and stings.
One of foamflower’s saving graces is that it’s evergreen or semi-evergreen in most areas. Meaning, during the winter when most medicinal herbs are dormant and impossible to find, foamflower can still be located and utilized. So when the wind blows cold and the days grow dark, there’s still an herb that can come to your rescue.