Zones 3 to 9
Moist to wet soil. Tolerates dry, but won’t spread as vigorously
Sun to Part shade
2′-3′ tall, spreading by suckers
New York to West Virginia and south to Florida and Alabama. Found on edges of streams or damp woods in sandy soil, in dappled sunlight, in wet depressions.
This is a low-growing, shrubby plant in the buttercup family. It makes a good groundcover in a damp, shaded area. It’s lacy leaves are attractive, with particularly good fall color. The flowers come out in late winter and early spring, when little else is blooming. They are not showy in the typical, floral way, but have their own unique star-shaped interest. As they turn to seeds in the fall, the chestnut brown heads add another layer of interest to this plant. One might use the term ‘handsome’ to describe this groundcover that has been flying under the radar for many, many years. Once it gets started in your landscape, you can divide and move it about to encourage its spread. And did you guess? — Its roots are yellow! Often used as a dye.
Yellowroot prefers acidic soil, and will turn yellow in alkaline soils. An excellent in-depth article about yellow-root, with great photos, can be found HERE. It adapts to a wide variety of soils, from silt to sand to clay. It can be used to stabilize slopes and prevent erosion. In ideal conditions it can spread indefinitely — a plus if that is what you want. If not, concrete barrier or metal edging can keep it in check.
Ecosystem Value of Yellowroot
Provides understory habitat for birds and small critters. Most likely there are many other ecosystem interactions that are yet to be discovered. Plant this in your landscape and make observations. Let us know what you see!