Rick’s Native Plant of the Month | Yellowroot

December 14, 2021

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

Late season color is a good reason to seek out this month’s native plant. Yellowroot, Xanthorhiza simplicissima, is noticeable this time of the year because its foliage has very late fall color, glowing yellow-orange with purple overtones. The rest of the year it is nondescript in appearance, but not unattractive. Small, purple-brown flowers appear in mid-April before the leaves and often go unnoticed. Compound leaves are clean, astilbe-like or celery-like, lustrous bright green, emerging on stems that form a uniform thicket, 2-3 feet tall.

Yellowroot is a suckering shrub that forms a solid mat of roots just below ground level, wide-spreading and almost impervious to weeds. Growing in full sun as well as dense shade and adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions, yellowroot makes a perfect ground cover for large areas. It thrives in moist woods and along streams, covering great distances, but also does well on drier sites and is drought-tolerant once established. It has no pests or diseases.

Native from New York to Florida and west to Kentucky, yellowroot gets its name from its long, slender, deep yellow roots which yield a yellow dye and have been used to treat digestive and circulatory ailments. Bridge Gardens has a rambunctious stand near the small pool by the garden house.

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