head image
filler Home button Advanced search Herberia Partners Herbaria team members Herberia links Contact
family select
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


genus select
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


search



leaf What is an Herbarium?

leaf Genus Descriptions

leaf Species Descriptions

leaf Ontario FEC V-Types

leaf Bibliography

leaf Terminology

leaf Who Collects the Plants?

leaf Collector Biographies

leaf Nomenclature Primer

leaf Website Information

Northern Ontario Plant Database

leafleaf

Plant Description


Coptis trifolia (L.) Salisb.

En: goldthread, yellow snakeroot, canker-root
Fr: coptide trifoliolée, savoyane, tisavoyanne jaune
Oj: ozaawaajiibik, sau-tiskan, ozaawijiibik, zaawjiibkenhs

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup or crowfoot Family)

Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
Coptis trifoliahab Coptis trifolialvs Coptis trifoliaflw Coptis trifoliaill

General: A low, perennial forb, to 17 cm tall, the plant smooth (glabrous), spreading by thin, bright yellow rhizomes, which have a bitter taste. Eastern North American plants were formerly separated as Coptis groenlandica (Oeder) Fernald, but this distinction is no longer recognized.

Leaves: Basal, evergreen, compound, dark green and very glossy when young. Leaves divided into 3 leaflets (trifoliate). Leaves long-stalked, leaflets short-stalked. Leaflets obovate and shallowly lobed toward the tip; bases tapering (cuneate); apices and marginal teeth bristle-tipped.

Flowers: Bisexual; the solitary flower situated on a stalk (peduncle) 3–17 cm tall; flowers 1–1.5 cm wide. Sepals 5–7, white, petal-like, elliptic to oblanceolate, 1–3.6 mm wide, deciduous; petals 5–7, yellow, very reduced and fleshy, modified into narrow, club-shaped (clavate) nectaries with a depression at the tip, alternating with the petaloid sepals; stamens numerous, longer than the short, nectar-producing (nectariferous) petals; pistils 3–9, erect; the superior ovaries each taper to a curved style that persists as a beak on the fruit. Flowers bloom in April to May.

Fruit: A cluster of 3–9 dry fruits (follicles), elliptic, 4–7 mm long (excluding the beak), spreading (divergent), each short-stalked and topped by a narrow beak, 2–4 mm long.

Habitat and Range: Moist, usually mossy conifer forests and swamps. Goldthread occurs throughout the boreal regions of North America and Eurasia, and throughout northern Ontario.

Internet Images: The Coptis trifolia webpage from the Gallery of Connecticut Wildflowers, website of the Connecticut Botanical Society.

This image of a Coptis trifolia flower shows the bright yellow nectariferous petals alternating with the white sepals; from The Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador Vascular Plants website.

Notes: The somewhat shiny, evergreen leaves that persist through winter are soon replaced by young, paler, glossy leaves soon after flowering begins. Goldthread, with its distinctive trifoliate leaves and small star-like flowers scattered across the forest floor in early spring, is not easily confused with other species.

Back to species list
Last Modified: