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Twinleaf Jeffersonia diphylla


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credit: James Steakley/CCSA

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Family: Berberidaceae, Barberry view all from this family

Description Spring flower on leafless flower stalk, under paired leaflets.
Habit: native perennial herb; flower and stalk grow directly from underground rhizome.
Height: 4-17 in (10-43 cm)
Leaf: basal, on long stalks, compound in 2 unequal leaflets, roughly oval, lobed, palmately veined; 2.75-6 in (6-15 cm) long, 1.25-2.5 in (3-7 cm) wide.
Flower: daisy-like, white, 0.5-1.5" (12-38 mm) wide; usually 8 oval petals, evenly spaced, around a yellow-green center.
Fruit: urn-shaped capsule, to 1.5 in (38 mm) wide by 0.75 in (18 mm) wide; hinged top opens when mature.

Flower April to May.

Flower March - May (in south); April - May (in north)

Habitat Rich moist woods to semi-open rocky slopes, bluffs, and outcrops, usually over limestone or other calcareous rocks; 300-2600 ft (100-800 m); also cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Native to mesic forests of eastern North America, particularly mesic maple-basswood forests; from Ontario and New York, south to Georgia, west to Alabama, northwest to Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

Discussion Also known as rheumatism root. Endangered, threatened, or protected in Georgia, Iowa, New Jersey, New York and Minnesota. 18th century botanist William Bartram named the genus after his friend and fellow botanist, Thomas Jefferson. J. dubia, native to Japan, is the only other species in the genus. Although twinleaf and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) have similar flowers, the leaves of bloodroot are palmately compound with 5-9 leaflets.

Comments The petals of this flower are extremely fragile and often drop at the first gust of wind or light shower. Young plants do not compete well and should be kept free of weeds.

Exposure Preference Partial shade to shade.

Native Distribution New York & s. Ontario to Wisconsin & n.e. Iowa, s. to Maryland & mts. from Georgia to Tennessee

Site Preference Rich, moist woods

Soil Preference Rich, damp soils. pH 4.5-7.