All the signs of fall cropping up recently have me harkening back to spring and thinking of changes I want to make in my garden. With my job this year has left me little time in the garden especially this summer. I am hopeful for a slow down as October rolls around where I have time to think and design, but that means the good fall weather needs to hold on long into November.
I also started reminiscing about wildflowers I love that I should profile. So in honor of Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail@Clay and Limestone, I am showcasing a little known wildflower that is threatened in many areas, Jeffersonia diphylla or Twinleaf part of the Barberry Family (Berberidaceae).
Jeffersonia which is also known as rheumatism root, is a small genus of perennial plants. It is named in honor of Thomas Jefferson by his friend and fellow botanist William Bartram. When spring comes around, I look with the anticipation for the purple beginnings of this strange plant as they emerge from the soil. As they grow they green up with telltale purple stems. Above you can still see the purple outlines of the leaf that eventually fade as the seasons progress.
This plant grows directly from the rhizome at the base of the plant not from a stem. The leaves grow in pairs, and the single flower resembles that of the Bloodroot flower.
Twinleaf is a wonderful addition to woodland, shade and native plant gardens. As this plant grows in it can become a great groundcover for shady areas.
In April, when the blue green, deeply lobed leaves have reached a height of 1 foot, a fragile eight-petaled flower appears on a leafless stalk. But the flowers don’t last long so be sure to pay attention for them before the wind or rain knocks them down. Twinleaf likes moist humusy soil in part and full shade. I have it nestled in my wildflower garden that is up against the North side of the house.
To keep this plant happy, do not let the soil to dry out, or mulch the soil to help keep the roots cool. Twinleaf is not considered a spring ephemeral because the leaves remain until the first killing frost. There are no serious pest or diseases that plague this plant, and I find little slug damage on mine.
This plant is easily grown from seed although seedlings can take up to 5 years to mature into a flowering plant. The plant can also be divided in fall. To gather seed look for the pear-shaped fruit that pops open when ripe to reveal the seed. The seed doesn’t keep long so within a month you will want to plant them. I let them fall naturally to grow more Twinleaf.
Where Are They Found
Twinleaf can be found from Ontario, Canada and New York south to Georgia and Alabama, and northwest to Iowa and Minnesota. It occurs naturally in rich, moist deciduous forests where it grows and flowers before the forest canopy appears. The shade of summer foliage protects the plants to keep them growing through fall.
The two species of Jeffersonia are native to eastern North America (J. diphylla) and eastern Asia (J. dubia). Twinleaf is protected as a threatened or endangered plant in Georgia, Iowa, New York, and New Jersey which is an important reason to grow this plant.
Benefits to Wildlife
The seeds are especially attractive to ants who gather the seeds and carry them to their nests, protecting them from rodents. Deer can sometimes be drawn to the leaves where they can completely defoliate the plant. The plant will survive, but not flower the following year. I have not had problems with deer, but this plant is nestled in among wildflowers and some mint.
Folklore and Tales
Jeffersonia diphylla has been used medicinally throughout history. Native Americans, such as the Cherokee and Iroquois, used the root as a tea for cramps, nervousness, diarrhea, a diuretic, and for sore throats. Externally it was used as a wash for sores, ulcers and inflammation. The plant is thought to be toxic so use caution. Modern medicine does not currently use this plant!
Traditional Chinese medicine does use Jeffersonia dubia for strengthening the stomach and bringing down fevers.
The root of Jeffersonia diphylla contains an anti-tumor alkaloid.
Twinleaf does not have a specific Language of Flowers meaning so I am using the meaning given to its family, Barberry which is Sourness of Temper. Not a great name for such a wonderful underutilized plant.
“Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair…” ~Susan Polis Schutz
Check out other posts in the series, Wildflower Tale:
Next up on the blog: Monday is time for another garden review in a Gardens Eye Journal post wrapping up September.
I am guest blogging over at Vision and Verb. See my post. I hope you will visit this wonderful website of women writers.
I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now. Tuesday brings my next post.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.
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