Epimedium, also known as barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, or yin yang huo (Chinese: 淫羊藿), is a genus of flowering plants in the family Berberidaceae. The majority of the species are endemic to China, with smaller numbers elsewhere in Asia, and a few in the Mediterranean region.
The species used as a dietary supplement is Epimedium grandiflorum. It contains icariin, which is a weak PDE5 inhibitor in vitro. Its clinical effects are unknown. There is little clinical evidence, but it is thought to have erectogenic properties and is found in some men's sexual health supplements.
Species of Epimedium are herbaceous perennials, growing from an underground rhizome. Their growth habits are somewhat variable. Some have solitary stems, others have a "tufted" habit, with multiple stems growing close together. There may be several leaves to a stem or the leaves may be solitary, produced from the base of the plant. Individual leaves are generally compound, often with three leaflets, but also with more. Leaflets usually have spiny margins. The leaves may be annual, making the plant deciduous, or longer lasting, so that the plant is evergreen. The inflorescence is an open raceme or panicle, the number of flowers varying by species.
Individual flowers have parts in fours. There are four smaller outer sepals, usually greenish and shed when the flower opens. Moving inwards, these are followed by four larger petal-like inner sepals, often brightly coloured. Inside the sepals are four true petals. These may be small and flat, but often have a complex shape including a nectar-producing "spur" that may be longer than the sepals. There are four stamens.
One of the common names for the genus, bishop's hat, arises from the shape of the flowers, particularly where the spurs are longer than the sepals.
The genus was given its name by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, in describing the European species E. alpinum. The name is a latinized version of a Greek name for an unidentifiable plant, epimedion, that is mentioned in Pliny's Natural History (xxvii.57). The meaning of the original name is unclear.
- accepted species (65)
- Epimedium acuminatum
- Epimedium alpinum
- Epimedium baiealiguizhouense
- Epimedium baojingensis
- Epimedium borealiguizhouense
- Epimedium brachyrrhizum
- Epimedium brevicornum
- Epimedium campanulatum
- Epimedium chlorandrum
- Epimedium circinatocucullatum
- Epimedium coactum
- Epimedium davidii
- Epimedium dewuense
- Epimedium diphyllum
- Epimedium dolichostemon
- Epimedium ecalcaratum
- Epimedium elatum
- Epimedium elongatum
- Epimedium enshiense
- Epimedium epsteinii
- Epimedium fangii
- Epimedium fargesii
- Epimedium flavum
- Epimedium franchetii
- Epimedium glandulosopilosum
- Epimedium grandiflorum
- Epimedium hunanense
- Epimedium ilicifolium
- Epimedium jingzhouense
- Epimedium koreanum
- Epimedium latisepalum
- Epimedium leptorrhizum
- Epimedium lishihchenii
- Epimedium lobophyllum
- Epimedium macrosepalum
- Epimedium membranaceum
- Epimedium mikinorii
- Epimedium multiflorum
- Epimedium myrianthum
- Epimedium ogisui
- Epimedium parvifolium
- Epimedium pauciflorum
- Epimedium perralderianum
- Epimedium pinnatum
- Epimedium platypetalum
- Epimedium pseudowushanense
- Epimedium pubescens
- Epimedium pubigerum
- Epimedium pudingense
- Epimedium qingchengshanense
- Epimedium reticulatum
- Epimedium rhizomatosum
- Epimedium sagittatum
- Epimedium sempervirens
- Epimedium setosum
- Epimedium shennongjiaensis
- Epimedium shuichengense
- Epimedium stellulatum
- Epimedium sutchuenense
- Epimedium trifoliolatobinatum
- Epimedium truncatum
- Epimedium wushanense
- Epimedium zhushanense
Some artificial hybrids are cultivated in gardens. These include:
- E. × cantabrigiense Stearn, hybrid between E. alpinum and E. pubigerum
- E. × perralchicum Stearn, hybrid between E. perralderianum and E. pinnatum subsp. colchicum
- E. × rubrum Morr., hybrid between E. alpinum and E. grandiflorum
- E. × versicolor Morr., hybrid between E. grandiflorum and E. pinnatum subsp. colchicum
- E. × warleyense Stearn, hybrid between E. alpinum and E. pinnatum subsp. colchicum
- E. × youngianum Fisch & C.A.Mey, hybrid between E. diphyllum and E. grandiflorum
Some varieties and hybrids have been in Western cultivation for the last 100 to 150 years. There is now a wide array of new Chinese species being cultivated in the West, many of which have only recently been discovered, and some of which have yet to be named. There are also many older Japanese hybrids and forms, extending the boundaries of the genus in cultivation. The majority of the Chinese species have not been fully tested for hardiness nor indeed for any other aspect of their culture. The initial assumption that the plants would only thrive where their native conditions could be closely replicated have proven to be overly cautious, as most varieties are proving extraordinarily amenable to general garden and container cultivation.
While they can be successfully propagated in early spring, epimediums are best divided in late summer, with the aim of promoting rapid re-growth of roots and shoots before the onset of winter. Several breeders (in particular Darrell Diano Probst, Tim Branney & Robin White) have also undertaken their own hybridization programmes with the genus. Various new nursery selections are gradually appearing in the horticulture trade, the best of which extend the colour and shape range of the flowers available to the gardener.
Epimedium wushanense contains a number of flavonoids. 37 compounds were characterized from the underground and aerial parts of the plant. Among them, 28 compounds were prenylflavonoids. The predominant flavonoid, epimedin C, ranged from 1.4 to 5.1% in aerial parts and 1.0 to 2.8% in underground parts.
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- Shindel, Alan W.; Xin, Zhong-Chen; Lin, Guiting; Fandel, Thomas M.; Huang, Yun-Ching; Banie, Lia; Breyer, Benjamin N.; Garcia, Maurice M.; Lin, Ching-Shwun; Lue, Tom F. (April 2010). "Erectogenic and Neurotrophic Effects of Icariin, a Purified Extract of Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium spp.) In Vitro and In Vivo". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 7 (4 Pt 1): 1518–1528. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01699.x. ISSN 1743-6095. PMC 3551978. PMID 20141584.
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- The Plant List 2013.
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- "Epimedium 'Amber Queen'". www.rhs.org. Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
- Li HF, Guan XY, Ye M, Xiang C, Lin CH, Sun C, Guo DA.,"Qualitative and quantitative analyses of Epimedium wushanense by high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with diode array detection and electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry." J Sep Sci. 2011 May 10;
- Stearn, William Thomas (November 1938). "Epimedium and Vancouveria (Berberidaceae), a monograph". Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Botany. 51 (340): 409–535. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.1937.tb01914.x.
- Stearn, William T. (2002) . Green, Peter Shaw; Mathew, Brian (eds.). The genus Epimedium and other herbaceous Berberidaceae. (including the genus podophyllum by Julian Shaw, illustrations by Christabel King) (Revised ed.). Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens. ISBN 9781842460399.
- Avent, Tony (March 2010). "An overview of Epimedium". The Plantsman: 10–17.
- "Epimedium". The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
- Media related to Epimedium at Wikimedia Commons
- Data related to Epimedium at Wikispecies