CROWFOOT FAMILY - Ranunculaceae: Gold-thread; Canker-root

Coptis trifolia

Flowers--Small, white, solitary, on a slender scape 3 to 6 in. high. Sepals 5 to 7, petal-like, falling early; petals 5 to 6, inconspicuous, like club-shaped columns; stamens numerous; carpels few, the stigmatic surfaces curved. Leaves: From the base, long petioled, divided into 3 somewhat fan-shaped, shining, evergreen, sharply toothed leaflets. Rootstock: Thread-like, long, bright yellow, wiry, bitter.

Preferred Habitat--Cool mossy bogs, damp woods.

Flowering Season--May-August.

Distribution--Maryland and Minnesota northward to circumpolar regions.

Dig up a plant, and the fine, tangled, yellow roots tell why it was given its name. In the good old days when decoctions of any herb that was particularly nauseous were swallowed in the simple faith that virtue resided in them in proportion to their revolting taste, the gold-thread's bitter roots furnished a tea much valued as a spring tonic and as a cure for ulcerated throats and canker-sore mouths of helpless children.