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Menyanthes trifoliata (Buckbean)
Smith, R.W.

Menyanthes trifoliata

Menyanthes trifoliata L.

Buckbean, Buck-bean

Menyanthaceae (Buckbean Family)

Synonym(s): Menyanthes trifoliata var. minor

USDA Symbol: METR3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), GL (N), SPM (N)

This low perennial, 6-12 in., has three, shiny, oval leaflets, clumped at ground level. Large, long-stalked leaves and racemes or narrow clusters of white or purple-tinged, star-like flowers atop stout stalks, about as high as leaves. The white, five-petaled flowers are in an elongate cluster at the top of a single flowering stalk. The upper surface of the flower petals are covered with curved, white hairs.

This easily recognized species also occurs in Eurasia. In at least some localities, its flowers are of two kinds: those with short styles and long stamens and those with long styles and short stamens. The common name Bogbean alludes to the plant's habitat and to its small, bean-like seeds; these durable seeds have been found deeply buried in bogs. The leaves were sometimes used in Europe as a substitute for hops in beer brewing, and various medicinal applications of this species have been recorded. Deer Cabbage (Fauria crista-galli), a species traditionally placed in the genus Nephrophyllidium, has similar flowers but undivided, kidney-shaped leaves; it grows in wet places on the Olympic Peninsula and around the northern Pacific Coast.


From the Image Gallery

7 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 1 foot tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Purple
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug
Bloom Notes: White, often pink or purple tinged.


USA: AK , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DE , IA , ID , IL , IN , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NV , NY , OH , OR , PA , RI , SD , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Transcontinental Canada, s. to DE, n.w. NC, OH, NE, CO Rockies & n. CA
Native Habitat: Cool bogs, pond margins & wet woods

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Wet, sometimes acidic, soils.


Use Food: In Europe, powdered buckbean roots were mixed with flour as a nutritious but bitter-tasting bread additive. More commonly, the bitter leaves were used as a substitute for hops in flavouring beer and were also boiled in honey to make mead. Through the years, buckbean has been used to treat many ailments, including jaundice, indigestion, skin diseases, scurvy, intestinal worms and rheumatism. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

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

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 36 - Jepson eFlora (2019) The Jepson Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-02-20
Research By: TWC Staff

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