Hydrastis canadensis (Golden Seal)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Endangered
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods, ravines, thickets
Bloom season:May
Plant height:6 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct

[photo of flower] A single flower at the tip of the stem, ½ to ¾ inch across, no petals but with about 50 spreading, white stamens with pale yellow to green tips surrounding a small mound of green carpels. The 3 pale sepals drop away when the flower opens.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] A single basal leaf withers away by flowering time. A pair of alternate stem leaves is just below the flower. Leaves are up to 4 inches across at flowering time, expanding to 10 inches across in fruit, deeply palmately lobed with 5 or more primary lobes which may be further lobed. Leaf edges are singly or double toothed.

[photo of stem and leaf hairs] The uppermost leaf is stalkless or nearly so, the lower stem leaf has a stalk up to 2 inches long. Stems are erect and unbranched. Stems and leaf surfaces are covered in spreading hairs. Small colonies may be formed from thick, yellow, spreading rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a round cluster, up to ½ inch diameter, of red berries, each berry containing 1 or 2 seeds.


A rare species in Minnesota, Golden Seal reaches the northwest edge of its range in our southeast counties and the yellow, knotty roots are a hot commodity in the herbal medicine trade. While it has never been common in the state, according to the DNR, wild populations are diminishing across its range, partly from habitat destruction, but also due to exploitation from illegal harvesting. It was listed as a MN Endangered Species in 1984 and is currently listed as Special Concern in Wisconsin. It is easily identified by the pair of hairy, palmately lobed leaves and the single, petal-less flower or raspberry-like fruit at the tip of the stem.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in a private garden in Anoka County. Photos courtesy Christopher David Benda taken in Illinois.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Caroline - White Bear Lake
on: 2020-06-24 11:46:14

Golden seal colony is growing in my backyard! One plant first sighted in 2018, now expanding exponentially. Do not reveal the location!

Posted by: Freddie - Jay Cooke State Park
on: 2023-06-21 12:24:16

I didn't believe it when my iPhone photo app identified my photo as goldenseal, but it matches your description and photos.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-06-21 12:30:51

Freddie, if you check the distribution maps you'll see golden seal's natural range doesn't extend as far north as Jay Cooke SP, so you more likely have a different species.

Posted by: Freddie
on: 2023-06-21 14:48:58

Well, that's what I thought. And comparing my photo to yours, again, I wonder how on earth I decided my iPhone was right. This is why amateurs should never eat wild mushrooms!

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