Fern-leaved Goldthread

Fern-leaved Goldthread | Coptis asplenifolia
Fern-leaved Goldthread | Coptis aspleniifolia

One of the easily missed plants in the sub-alpine is the fern-leaved goldthread (Coptis aspleniifolia). At this time of year the flowers are long gone but the basal, fern-like leaves remain since they are evergreen. More noticeable are the striking seed heads. The picture above shows an old seed head after the seeds have been dispersed. Note that the follicles are split open on the upper side – this is apparently an adaptation for splash-cup dispersal of the seeds. In addition to reproduction by seeds, fern-leaved goldthread also spreads by yellowish thread-like rhizomes (hence the origin of the common name) and forms extensive mats.

Fern-leaved goldthread can be found in moist forests and bogs in low to middle elevations. It is an interesting plant to keep and eye out for and might make a good addition to a shady spot in a native plant garden.

Fern-leaved Goldthread | Coptis aspleniifolia
Fern-leaved Goldthread | Coptis aspleniifolia

The US Department of the Interior has a good overview of the natural history of fern-leaved goldthread that can be accessed here and Natureserve.org has a good reference page here. For local BC information consider Plants of Coastal BC (Pojar and MacKinnon) or eFlora.

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