Coptis trifolia (L.) Salisb.
Threeleaf Goldthread, Three-leaf Goldthread, Canker Root
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
Synonym(s): Coptis groenlandica, Coptis trifolia ssp. groenlandica, Coptis trifolia var. groenlandica
USDA Symbol: COTR2
Small and slender, this woodland perennial bears a single flower at the end of a 6 in., leafless stalk. Each flower has four to seven, petal-like sepals tinged with purple on their outer surface, and numerous white stamens. Basal, evergreen leaves, divided into three leaflets, occur on long petioles.
The common name refers to the golden-yellow underground stem that both Native Americans and colonists chewed to treat mouth sores (hence another common name for the plant, Canker-root). It was also made into a tea for use as an eyewash.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Follicle
Size Notes: Up to about 6 inches tall.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul
DistributionUSA: AK , CT , IN , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OR , PA , RI , VT , WI , WV
Canada: MB , NB , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Lab. to Man., s. to NJ, WV mts., n. OH & n. IN
Native Habitat: Mossy woods & swamps
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Moist, cold, acid soils.
PropagationDescription: Sow seeds outside as soon as they are ripe. Seeds will germinate after one winter and flower after two. Propagation is also possible by root cuttings.
Commercially Avail: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Coptis trifolia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Coptis trifolia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Coptis trifolia
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-02-01
Research By: TWC Staff