Goldenseal

Hydrastidaceae (Goldenseal family)

Description: Perennial herb 6-20 in. tall with a single basal leaf and 2 smaller leaves near top of stem. Up to 4 in. wide during flowering, the upper leaves expand to as large as 12 in. wide at maturity, with 3-5 (rarely 7) pointed lobes with a toothed margin and a hairy, wrinkled surface. Small, solitary flowers with 3 greenish white deciduous sepals, leaving the numerous white anther filaments as the primary visual cue attracting pollinators. Fruit a cluster of small, fleshy red berries. Flowers Apr.-May; fruits May-June.

Habitat/range: Moist, nutrient-rich forests on soils high in calcium or magnesium. Rich cove forests. Rare in mountains. Eastern North America.

Taxonomy: Goldenseal is the only species in the genus. The deeply lobed leaves and flowers of Tasselrue (Trautvetteria caroliniensis) are similar to goldenseal, but it has smooth (rather than hairy) stems and its leaves and flowers form branched clusters.

Ecology: Populations usually consist of flowering shoots with 3 leaves

(2 stem leaves and 1 basal leaf) as well as single-leafed nonreproductive shoots. While new individuals infrequently establish from seed, vegetative spread by an extensive network of rhizomes can result in dense patches of hundreds of leafy stems. Local patch proliferation is often greatest on forest edges or beneath small gaps in the forest canopy. Rare throughout its range, the species has declined in both distribution and abundance due to overcollecting (for medicinal purposes) and loss of habitat.

Wildlife: White-tailed deer browse the foliage and small bees pollinate the flowers. The fleshy red berries would seem to be attractive to birds and mammals but they often simply fall to the ground.

Uses: Goldenseal rhizomes contain various alkaloids that are used in herbal remedies to treat digestive ailments, bronchial infections, and to "boost" the immune system. A popular medicinal herb, several million wild-collected rhizomes are harvested annually from publicly managed forests in the eastern United States.

Hypericum gentianoides (L.) Britton, Sterns & Poggenb.

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