Medicinal Plants: Three-leaved Goldthread

Photo of Three-leaved Goldthread

Three-leaved Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is a low-growing perennial plant who lives in forests and swampy areas throughout New England. The plant's evergreen, three-parted leaves emerge from a thin, yellow-orange rhizome found just below the soil surface.

In spring, kneeling down for a close look at the solitary flowers reveals white petal-like sepals, small yellow petals with cup-shaped tips, numerous white stamens, and, in the center, green pistils. Though more difficult to notice after the white sepals drop, the progression from flower to fruit gradually unfolds. By summer and often holding into fall, only a whorl of green, beaked pods remains.

The roots of Three-leaved Goldthread contain berberine, a medicinally active compound also found in the roots of Japanese Barberry. You can read about some medicinal uses of Coptis trifolia at the Partridge, Pine, and Peavey blog. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)

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