Chuan Bei Mu

Botanical name: Fritillaria chirrhosa
Common name: Sichuan fritillaria bulb
Literal name translation: shell mother from Sichuan

Family: Liliaceae, lily family
Part used in Chinese medicine:  bulb

Major Chinese medicine actions:
Clears heat, transforms phlegm, alleviates cough, dissipates nodules

Chuan Bei Mu

Chuan Bei Mu

Native to East Asia and the Himalayas, Fritillaria cirrhosa is found growing on mountain slopes and alpine and sub-alpine meadows from Nepal to China. The flowers are pale green, sometimes purplish-tinged, with brownish-purple checkering, blooming from April to May.

There are several alternate species that are used in Chinese medicine as Chuan Bei Mu. These include Fritillaria unibracteata, Fritillaria prezwalskii, and Fritillaria delavayi.

Growing and Propagation

The plant should be grown in full sun or part shade in loamy, well-drained soil. Soil should be moisture retentive and humus rich, with added leaf mold. Fritillaria cirrhosa can be difficult to grow and does best in climates that have cool, damp summers. It is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 8.

To propagate, seed should be fresh and sown in a cold frame protected from frost for the first year. They can take up to a year to germinate, but once this has occurred, a liquid fertilizer should be applied in order to make sure they have adequate minerals. Bulbs can be divided in August and re-planted at the end of the second growing season. Small bulbs should be protected from the cold and direct sun for the first year before planting in a more permanent location in the fall.

Harvesting and Preparation

For medicinal use, Chuan Bei Mu is generally used in its unprepared form. Good quality bulbs are solid, white and unbroken.