Wildflowers Monday – Jeffersonia diphylla

Jeffersonia diphylla – Twinleaf, Rheumatism root (Fam. Berberidaceae)

Twinleaf is quite an unusual North American native species. Not often cultivated and we still have to find it in the woods of Southwestern Ontario where it is probably quite rare. This gorgeous picture belongs to a cultivated plant. It is obviously thriving in a garden where many native species are mingling happily in a fine balance with more exotic species (many thanks for the opportunity to take the pictures).

Jeffersonia diphylla

Jeffersonia diphylla

It is easily distinguished by the bluish-green two-lobed leaves that gave both its Latin and common names. Think of them as green butterflies topped up in the spring by large white flowers resembling those of the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Awesome combination!

But the flowering is a short event like in many other cases; it is the foliage that makes it so special. In the spring, the newly emerged stems are purple coloured, reminding of another great perennial of Berberidaceae, the blue cohosh. A definitely show off for any garden! If we would be to say this is a rare Chinese species, would it become more desirable? Joke apart, the only other Jeffersonia species, equally special, J. dubia, grows wild in the Far East Russia, North Korea, and Manchuria.

Named in honour of US President Thomas Jefferson, which was a keen gardener himself, it has had medicinal uses in the traditional aboriginal medicine, mainly for dropsy, urinary problems and inflammations (hence the name rheumatism root).

Jeffersonia diphylla fruit

Jeffersonia diphylla fruit

Propagation: not difficult from seeds if they are kept moist at all times and allowed a warm-cold cycle (just like its cousins Epimediums). It will germinate in the next warm cycle. Not fast growing but worthwhile the wait. It presents a peculiar capsule that opens from a slit below the top, similar with a lid (be careful to catch the arilate seeds!)

5 replies
  1. Amy Olmsted
    Amy Olmsted says:

    My three plants of this came up bigger than ever this year! Lots of seed capsules too! I have been trying to divide it with no success, but a potful of seedlings are coming along so there’s hope of more plants in the future!

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