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Coptis trifolia (L.) Salisb.

Coptis groenlandica (Oeder) Fernald

Coptis trifolia (L.) Salisb. ssp. groenlandica (Oeder) Hultén

Coptis trifolia (L.) Salisb. var. groenlandica (Oeder) Fassett

Goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassMagnoliidaeIncludes magnolias, nutmeg, bay laurel, cinnamon, avocado, black pepper, and many others
OrderRanunculalesBasal (evolved earlier) eudicots, also called “true dicots”
FamilyRanunculaceaeButtercup family
GenusCoptisFrom the Greek kopto, “to cut,” in reference to the deeply-incised leaves
Speciestrifolia

About plant names...

Threeleaf goldthread is native to eastern Eurasia, Green­land, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Canada, and the United States. It prefers cool, moist habitats in pine and spruce forests.

Plants: These plants hug the forest floor, at 3-6" (7.6-15 cm) in height. The roots of these plants are long and golden yellow, hence the “goldthread” part of the name.

Leaves: Each plant is comprised of a single glossy evergreen leaf, though it is so deeply lobed that it looks like three distinct leaves, hence the “threeleaf” part of the name. The three leaves together form a rough rounded triangle. Leaf tips are scalloped. The leaf emerges on a very short stem.

Flowers: Each plant produces a single, rather beautiful flower atop a long, thin stem. It is ¼-½" (8.3-12 mm) in diameter. The things that look like five to seven white petals are actually sepals. Inside the sepals, not looking the least bit like petals, are 4 to 7 tiny yellow petals, shaped like diminutive spoons, with a drop of nectar in each spoon. There are many white-tipped threadlike stamens. Flowers appear in May, and are easy to miss, since they don’t persist for very long.

Fruits: A small array of 4-7 pods, each ¼" (8.5 mm) long, reminiscent of a candelabra.

Medical: Indigenous peoples and colonists chewed the bitter yellow roots of these plants to relieve canker sores, hence the common name canker-root. The Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines lists treatment of digestive disorders among its unproven uses.

Online References:

Coptis trifolia at Minnesota Wildflowers

Coptis trifolia on www.wildadirondacks.org

Coptis trifolia on Wikipedia

Coptis trifolia on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database

Coptis trifolia on www.henriettes-herb.com

Coptis trifolia on Ontario Wildflowers

References:

Multiple Authors, PDR for Herbal Medicines, Thomson Healthcare Inc., 2007, p. 400

Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

5/10/2016 · Old Long Loop, Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH

Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

4/27/2016 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, MA

Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

5/10/2016 · Old Long Loop, Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH

Coptis trifolia description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

5/10/2016 · Old Long Loop, Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH

Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

5/7/2013 · J. Harry Rich Dirt Road, Groton, MA
≈ 3½ × 3½" (9 × 9.1 cm)

Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

5/10/2016 · Old Long Loop, Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH

Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

5/7/2013 · J. Harry Rich Dirt Road, Groton, MA
≈ 4 × 4" (10 × 9.9 cm)

Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

4/27/2016 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, MA

Coptis trifolia (goldthread, threeleaf goldthread, canker-root, tisavoyanne)

4/27/2016 · Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, MA

Range:

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