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In the mountains of North Carolina are the rich and fertile fields of the Cherokee. Here they grow lavender and wildflowers in abundance. Goldenseal grows along the steep escarpments that rise high above the forest floor.Goldenseal is a perennial, woodland forb in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). The name is derived from the underground rhizome, which is yellow with a golden sap. In the spring, the plant produces a flowering stem with two, large hairy leaves, palmately cut into 5 to 7 lobes, and with prominent veins. The flower rises from the base of the sessile upper leaf. Like many species in the buttercup family, the flower has no petals. Instead, the many stamens surrounding the pistil produce the white color characteristic of the flower. The fruit ripens in mid- to late-summer, and resembles a small raspberry, with fleshy red berries, each topped with persistent styles and containing one or two black, shiny seeds. The fruits are considered inedible, although they may be an important wildlife food.
Hydrastis canadensis L., a member of the Ranunculaceae family, is native to North America with a natural range from southern Quebec to northern Georgia and west to Missouri. Goldenseal is an herbaceous perennial and can be found growing naturally in rich, densely shaded, deciduous forests. The plant emerges in early spring from buds that overwinter on the perennial rootstock, growing each year to a height of 8 to 14 inches. The mature plant has two or more erect stems, usually ending in a fork with two leaves. The dark-green leaf is palmate shaped with a long petiole and can have five to seven lobes.
The margins of the leaves are double-serrated. Leaves can span 3 to 12 inches in diameter and 3 to 8 inches in length. A single greenish-white flower blooms briefly from late April to May, depending upon location. A single green berry-like fruit develops, turning red in July and containing up to 30 black seeds. The seeds, which must always remain moist, may take up to three years to germinate. First-year seedlings have two little round leaves and look very different from the mature plants. The turmeric-colored rhizome and fibrous roots spread horizontally in the soil and can form a dense mat. If not harvested, the oldest parts of the rhizome eventually decay and the newer material continues to grow outward. Throughout this article, the term “roots” will refer to roots and rhizomes together, unless indicated otherwise. (Source: forest-farming.extension.org)