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Jeffersonia diphylla (Twinleaf)
Bruso, George H.

Jeffersonia diphylla

Jeffersonia diphylla (L.) Pers.


Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)



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

The simple leaf at the apex of each stem is divided into two identical parts. Leaves have reached only half their mature height of 12-18", when the leafless flower stalk produces a white, 8-petaled, star-like blossom. Fruit is a pipe-like capsule that pops open when ripe.

The solitary flower somewhat resembles that of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), but the latter species has palmately compound leaves with 5-9 lobes. Although both common and species names suggest a plant with two leaves, there are actually more; each leaf is divided into two nearly separate leaflets. The genus was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson by his friend and fellow botanist William Bartram. Only one other species of twinleaf occurs in the world: J. dubia, found in Japan.


From the Image Gallery

30 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Venation: Palmate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 18 inches tall.

Bloom Information

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


USA: AL , DC , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MD , MI , MN , NC , NJ , NY , OH , PA , TN , VA , WI , WV
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: NY & s. Ont. to WI & n.e. IA, s. to MD & mts. from GA to TN
Native Habitat: Rich, moist woods

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Rich, damp soils.
Conditions Comments: The petals of this flower are extremely fragile and often drop at the first gust of wind or light shower. Young plants do not compete well and should be kept free of weeds. The plant has pairs of angel wing shaped leaves. (Lamb/Rhynard)


Use Medicinal: Plants of Jeffersonia diphylla were used medicinally by Native Americans for treatment of dropsy, gravel and urinary ailments, and for gall and diarrhea, and in poultices for sores and ulcers (D. E. Moermann 1986).
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Easily propagated by seed, which should be sown immediately upon ripening and should not be allowed to dry out. Seedlings take 4-5 years to develop into flowering-sized plants. Large plants may be divided at the end of the growing season.
Seed Collection: Seeds should be collected 3-4 weeks after the bloom period. The capsule is green, pear-shaped and 1 in. long, splitting open when the seeds are ripe. Seeds lose viability quickly in storage.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

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
Longwood Gardens - Kennett Square, PA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1263 - Medicinal Plants of Native America (1986) Moerman, Daniel E.
Bibref 1262 - Plants of Carolinian Canada (1994) Lamb, Larry and Gail Rhynard
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 Jeffersonia diphylla in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Jeffersonia diphylla in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Jeffersonia diphylla


Record Modified: 2023-02-14
Research By: DEW

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