Goldenseal is highly valued for its medicinal properties and is now becoming more rare range-wide because it is being overcollected. Fortunately, it can also be grown in a nursery without disturbing wild populations.
There are 20 existing populations and about 10 historical records. It is not expected that many more populations will be found and that the threat from collection and habitat destruction may increase in the future.
One site in eastern New York has been severely degraded but populations remain fairly stable throughout the rest of state.
Historical records show that this plant was never common in New York and the number of known occurrences has remained about the same over the last 100 years.
This plant is collected for medicinal purposes but so far there is no evidence that it is being over-collected in New York. There is a moderate threat from habitat destruction, especially in the Lower Hudson area. Exotic species like garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle threaten its understory habitat.
The woodland areas where this species occurs need to be protected from disturbance that could introduce too much sunlight or invasive species to the site. If there are invasive species they need to be removed.
Some research has been done on habitat preference by the College of Environmental Science and Forestry but there have been no results as of 2007. Research needs to be done on whether populations could be augmented at existing sites.
Goldenseal colonies are found at the bottom or mid-slopes of rich woodlands, often near streams. Sometimes the slopes are deeply dissected by runoff or they may consist of limestone talus and cliffs. The forests are usually mature with old logs and an open understory with a diverse Spring wildflower flora. The underlying rock is usually limestone and the soils are rich in organic matter, sometimes with springs emanating from the slopes. (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Deep rich woods (Fernald 1970). Deep rich woods (Gleason 1952).
Goldenseal occurs from Rennselaer County south to Orange and Dutchess Counties and west to Niagara and Erie Counties. Most collections are from western New York.
Goldenseal occurs from the Eastern United States northward into Ontario. It is common in Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia and uncommon around the range perimeter. Hydrastis is presently cultivated to a limited extent within its historical range as well as in Oregon and Washington (Kauffman 1996).
A small herbaceous plant usually growing in groups with one small leaf at the bottom and two large leaves at the top of the hairy stem. The leaves are heart-shaped with five-seven toothed lobes. There is one flower at the top of the stem composed of showy white stamens. This matures into a round cluster of showy red berries.
It is best to search for this plant when the leaf is present with a flower or fruit. However, the distinctive leaves can be used for identification when flowers and fruits are absent.
This species may be confused for Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum, or Canada waterleaf, Hydrophyllum canadense, when not in flower. Mayapple has a peltate leaf with lobes that are split into two smaller lobes at the tip and a single white flower blooms below the leaves. Canada waterleaf has lobes with larger teeth and a very rough surface and the light lavender flowers bloom in clusters just below the leaf blades.
Hydrastis canadensis flowers in May. Its red fruits mature June through August.
The time of year you would expect to find Goldenseal vegetative, flowering, and fruiting in New York.
Hydrastis canadensis L.
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Information for this guide was last updated on: January 13, 2009
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Hydrastis canadensis. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/goldenseal/. Accessed June 6, 2023.