Goldenseal in Your Back Woods?
Posted: April 17, 2017
As springtime approaches, one of the earliest signs of its arrival are any of the numerous wildflowers growing throughout the woods. When people think of flowers in the woods, they may think of showy trilliums, yellow trout lilies, or delicate ladyslipper orchids. One forest herb that might not readily come to mind is goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).
If you have goldenseal growing in your woods, you are likely in the minority of landowners, and you might not think much of it. Goldenseal emerges in early spring, with many of the stems only producing a single five- to seven-lobed leaf. Those that do bloom reward the casual observer with a small, single, greenish-white flower that pales in comparison to many spring flowering herbs.
For hundreds of years, goldenseal rhizomes have been collected for their medicinal value treating numerous ailments, as a digestive aid, appetite stimulant, and a wash for inflammation. Historically, goldenseal was found throughout Pennsylvania; however, its occurrence is now much less common. As such, goldenseal is “vulnerable” in Pennsylvania, and is of significant conservation concern.
As a PhD student at Penn State, my PA DCNR-funded research is to investigate the long-term viability of goldenseal in both public and private forests across the commonwealth. I am looking for forest landowners to partner with me as I look to determine where goldenseal is still growing, and under what habitat conditions. To date, my work seems to indicate that this is a very uncommon species, so any landowner participation could contribute significantly to our current knowledge. If you have goldenseal growing on your property, and are willing to include it in a study looking at goldenseal habitat across the state, or wish to learn more about the study, please email me.