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Muller, Thomas L.
Gillenia trifoliata (L.) Moench
Bowman's root, Indian physic
Synonym(s): Porteranthus trifoliatus
USDA Symbol: GITR6
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
This loose, informal, slender perennial, grows 2-3 ft. tall from a woody rootstock. One or more stems arise from each crown. Leaf blades are divided into three, narrow, toothed lobes. An erect plant bearing white or pinkish flowers with narrow petals and almost stalkless, 3-parted leaves. The whitish flowers have five narrow petals and are borne in loose panicles. Attractive red calyxes persist after the petals fall.
The five petals of this plant project somewhat irregularly. The dried and powdered root was used by Native Americans as a laxative and emetic, hence the common names. A southern and western relative, American Ipecac (G. stipulata), found from Kansas, Michigan, and New York south to Georgia and Texas, has large, sharply toothed or jagged stipules. These plants were formerly included in the genus Gillenia.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf Retention: Deciduous Size Notes:
1 to 4 feet tall Autumn Foliage:
Fruit: Size Class:
1-3 ft. , 3-6 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Blooms usually white, but occasionally pale pink.
, WV Canada: ON Native Distribution:
S. Ont. to DE
w. to KY, AR
& LA Native Habitat:
Dry to moist, upland woods & rocky banks, mostly in the mountains.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low , Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, rich, rocky, acid soil. Tolerates lime.
Standout white flowers for shade Use Medicinal:
The dried and powdered root was used by Native
Americans as a laxative and emetic. Conspicuous Flowers:
PropagationPropagation Material: Root Division , Seeds
Description: Propagate by seed planted in early spring or by division.
Seed Collection: Ripens in early fall.
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
- Hinton, WVAmerican Native Nursery
- Quakertown, PA
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Delaware Nature Society
- Hockessin, DEMt. Cuba Center
- Hockessin, DE
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-09
Research By: TWC Staff