Golden Seal

Hydrastis canadensis

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Photo of a golden seal plant with flower.
Large, crinkled, palmately 5-lobed leaves distinguish golden seal, which occurs in moist woods in the Ozarks and Central Missouri.
Family

Ranunculaceae (crowfoots; buttercups)

Description

Golden seal is an herbaceous perennial. Flowers are terminal on a short peduncle (stem) arising from the axil of 2-leaved plants. The peduncle supports a very small leaf. The flower has no petals; 3 sepals fall off as the flower opens, leaving only white stamens and pistils in a rounded cluster that is about ½ inch wide. Blooms April–May. Leaves distinctive, with a crinkled texture, either 1 or at most 2, near the top of the hairy, unbranching stem; leaves large, 5-lobed with palmate veins, the lobes with large, coarse teeth. After flowering, a few basal leaves of the same shape appear. Fruit single, a compact, compound, scarlet berry, resembling a raspberry.

Size

Height: to about 6 inches.

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Photo of a golden seal flower with leaf.
Golden Seal
Golden seal has 1 or 2 very distinctive leaves that are large, crinkled, palmately lobed, and coarsely toothed.

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Photo of a golden seal flower, closeup.
Golden Seal
Golden seal flowers have no petals; the 3 sepals fall off as the flower opens, leaving only white stamens and pistils in a rounded cluster about ½ inch wide.

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Photo of golden seal plant on forest floor, side view.
Golden Seal
Golden seal occurs in moist, humus-rich wooded slopes and wooded valleys.

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Photo of a golden seal plant in bloom.
Golden Seal
Golden seal has long been declining throughout its range mostly because of unscrupulous root collectors.

Golden Seal Berry

Close-up of a Golden Seal plant with a red fruit on a short, barbed stem. The fruit looks like a very small raspberry.
Golden Seal with a berry at Shaw Nature Preserve.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in moist, humus-rich wooded slopes and wooded valleys. Golden seal sometimes forms very large colonies.

image of Golden Seal Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Mostly in the Ozarks and in Central Missouri. Absent from most northernwestern and southwestern counties.

Human connections

The roots and sometimes the leaves are used medicinally, a practice that continues from Native American and frontier folk medicine. Numerous studies are focusing on its potential benefits as well as its toxicity. One concern is interactions that golden seal has with other medications.

Ecosystem connections

Golden seal has long been declining throughout its range in part due to habitat destruction but mostly because of unscrupulous root collectors. Fortunately, today market demand is met by cultivated roots.