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Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal)
Cressler, Alan

Hydrastis canadensis

Hydrastis canadensis L.


Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Goldenseal becomes 6-20 in. tall, usually bearing three maple-like, shiny-green leaves. The stem is terminated by a single, white flower with yellow stamens followed by a tight cluster of red fruit. 1 large, wrinkled, basal leaf and a hairy stalk bearing 1 flower above a pair of 5-lobed stem leaves, all rising from a yellow, underground stem.

Lacking petals and losing the sepals early, the flowers of this species owe their color to the many whitish stamens. The plant was used medicinally by Native Americans and colonists and is still in use today, ranking with American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) of the ginseng family (Araliaceae) as one of the most collected of eastern North American medicinal herbs. Its current rarity is due at least in part to overcollection.


From the Image Gallery

18 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Aggregate , Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 20 inches tall.
Fruit: Red

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NJ , NY , OH , PA , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: VT to MI & MN, s. to VA, mts. of GA, AL, TN & AR
Native Habitat: Deep, rich woods

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Soil Description: Moist, humus-rich soil.
Conditions Comments: A deciduous leaf winter cover is desirable. A good ground cover for moist, shady places. The knotty yellow rhizomes are used in medicine and have been collected so extensively that the plant is nearly exterminated.


Description: Easily propagated by seed, division or root cuttings. To propagate by division, divide the rhizomes when the plant is dormant. To grow from seed, sow fresh seed and cover lightly with leafmold. Keep the seeds moist; they will stratify by themselves. G
Seed Collection: Collect the berry as soon as it turns scarlet and separate the seeds from the pulp.
Commercially Avail: yes

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1263 - Medicinal Plants of Native America (1986) Moerman, Daniel E.
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 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 resources

USDA: Find Hydrastis canadensis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Hydrastis canadensis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Hydrastis canadensis


Record Modified: 2023-02-14
Research By: TWC Staff

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