Leuzea cahamoides or Rhaponticum carthamoides
Description of Maral Root (Rhaponticum carthamoides)
A large perennial plant for cooler regions. Produces a large rosette of large mid green leaves that can be up to 2 feet long and are deeply incised with pointed edges. In late spring it puts up thick round stems up to two feet tall topped by large solitary purple flowers that can be three inches across. Plants produce many stalks with the large showy thistle like flowers. Flowers in the second year from seed and sends down large thick roots which strongly establish the plant in the ground. Very hardy Zones 2-7.
Location and care of Maral Root (Rhaponticum carthamoides)
This plant is a native of Siberia thus it is used to colder climates for those in zones 2-4 there should be no problem growing the lovely plant pick in any full sun position. Zones 6 and 7 need to choose more carefully. Pick a location that will shelter it from the heat of the summer sun but also give as much sunshine as possible. The north side of a building, north side of some trees perhaps. Somewhere there is airflow to keep it a little cool is essential.
Whatever you decide choose your location wisely. If the plant is happy it will settle in and send down ROOTS. These guys are not easy to move once they are settled. They produce lots of wiry roots and thicker tubers which can be very hard to dig out.
It prefers a good fertile soil that is fairly well drained. Adding a lot of organic material to the soil will produce a good healthy plant and it will grow in almost any soil type if it is mulched. Will grow in clay provided it does not become too waterlogged over the winter. Well drained is best. It also needs reasonable water, use a soaker hose or water once a week in summer months, don't let it dry out. Plant where the deer cant get to it, they will eat it to the ground.
Space plants about 2 feet apart as it grows quickly and will take up quite a bit of space.
Once established it needs little or no maintenance. Ensure it has enough water and enjoy the blooms every spring. Clear away leaves in fall and that's it.
Growing of Maral Root (Rhaponticum carthamoides) from seed
Sow in individual pots in mid winter for spring planting. Will germinate at fairly low temperatures so heat should not be applied. A cold frame or unheated indoor area is ideal. Some reports say seeds benefit from cold before sowing, all our seeds have been cold treated. Germination is usually within 2-3 weeks depending on conditions. Best temperatures are between 55 - 60 F. This can take 2-3 weeks or more depending on temperature, warmer temperatures can inhibit germination or produce very poor results. Grow on until large enough to plant outside, preferably after danger of frost has passed to ensure plants can establish well. Don't plant where deer can eat them.
Pick location well as the roots grow deep and they might not be easy to move.
Medicinal Uses of Maral Root (Rhaponticum carthamoides)
The roots of this plant have been used by Russian athletes for many years. They contain a substances called ecdysteroids which have anabolic-like growth promoting effects without the side effects associated with drugs . These substances are known as adaptogens. These can helps athletes increase endurance, reflexes an concentration, and helps them to recover faster from exertion. Studies show that the root extract greatly increases the work capacity of muscles and normalizes blood sugar levels quickly after exertion, and improves memory and learning.
Digging the roots and processing however is quite difficult and time consuming.
What is it called again?
Scientists can't seem to make up their minds what this plant should be called. It used to be know as Leuzea carthamoides and Leuzea rhapontica. Now it's Stemmacantha carthamoides in some places and Rhaponticum carthamoide in others. It has also been listed under Centaurea, Cirsium, and Cnicus. We are not entirely sure where the plant stands at the moment but it would be nice if there was some consensus and they would stop changing the darn name!
Maral Root plants in field
Maral root flower with US quarter for scale
Maral root (Rhaponticum carthamoides) leaves
Maral root flower (Rhaponticum carthamoides)