(Coptis trifolia) Crowfoot family [Buttercup family]
Flowers - Small white, solitary, on a slender scape 3 to 6 in.
high. Sepals 5 to 7, petal-like, falling early; petals 5 or 6,
inconspicuous, like club-shaped columns; stamens numerous carpels
few, the stigmatic surfaces curved.
Leaves: From the base, long petioled, divided into 3 somewhat fan-shaped, shining, evergreen, sharply toothed leaflets. Rootstock: Thread-like, long, bright yellow, wiry, bitter. Preferred Habitat - Cool mossy bogs, damp woods. Flowering Season - May-August Distribution - Maryland and Minnesota northward to circumpolar regions. The shining, evergreen, thrice-parted leaves with which this charming little plant carpets its retreats form the best of backgrounds to set off the fragile, tiny white flowers that look like small wood anemones. Why does the gold-thread choose to dwell where bees and butterflies, most flowers' best friends, rarely penetrate? Doubtless because the cool, damp habitat that develops abundant fungi also perfectly suits the fungus gnats and certain fungus-feeding beetles that are its principal benefactors. "The entire flower is constructed with reference to their visits," says Mr. Clarence Moores Weed; "the showy sepals attract their attention; the abnormal petals furnish them food; the many small stamens with white anthers and white pollen furnish a surface to walk upon, and a foreground in which the yellow nectar-cups are distinctly visible; the long-spreading recurved stigmas cover so large a portion of the blossom that it would be difficult even for one of the tiny visitors to take many steps without contact with one of them." On a sunny June day the lens usually reveals at least one tiny gnat making his way from one club-shaped petal to another - for the insignificant petals are mere nectaries - and transferring pollen from flower to flower. Dig up a plant, and the fine tangled, yellow roots tell why it was given its name. In the good old days when decoctions of any herb that was particularly nauseous were swallowed in the simple faith that virtue resided in them in proportion to their revolting taste, the gold-thread's bitter roots furnished a tea much valued as a spring tonic and as a cure for ulcerated throats and canker-sore mouths of helpless children.
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