Species At Risk


(Hydrastis canadensis)




Goldenseal is a perennial herb with an erect stem covered with fine hair that can grow up to 50 centimetres high. It has three leaves, one at the base and two on the upper part of the stem. Leaves are five-lobed, doubly toothed, reaching a width of 25 centimetres. The flowers are distinctive in that they lack showy petals or sepals but have conspicuous, showy white stamens. The inedible fruit resembles a dark red raspberry and contains up to 30 small, dark brown or black seeds. The common name of the plant refers to the bright yellow bulb that bears the scars of previous stems and resembles the wax seals once used to close letters.

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Goldenseal is widespread, but rare, throughout its eastern North American range, which extends from southern Ontario and New England south to Georgia and Arkansas and west to Kansas and Oklahoma. In Canada, it is found only in extreme southwestern Ontario in the Carolinian Zone.


Goldenseal grows in rich, moist semi-open to closed areas of deciduous forests. It is found at periodically flooded upland sites and in moist lowlands near floodplains. It is associated with Red Oak, Sugar Maple, Hawthorns, Shagbark Hickory, Ironwood and Basswood. The species typically grows in disturbed areas where trees have fallen, or next to recreational paths or woodland edges. It prefers sandy loam, loam soils or clay soils depending on whether it is growing in an upland or lowland area.


Habitat loss and degradation is the primary threat to Goldenseal, along with changes to flooding and drainage regimes. Harvesting for medicinal uses is also considered a significant threat as almost all of the Goldenseal sold in Canada comes from wild populations.


Goldenseal receives protection under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

What You Can Do to Help Goldenseal

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as Goldenseal. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery. If you find Goldenseal on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Consult the Ministry of Natural Resources when working around forests for information on provincial regulations and best management practices to protect these important habitats. Call toll free 1-800-667-1940 or visit the Ministry website at http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/ContactUs/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_179002.html .
  • The Carolinian forests of southern Ontario support an amazing diversity of plants and wildlife, including many species at risk. Carolinian Canada is working to help recover species at risk and their habitats. For more information, visit: www.carolinian.org/SpeciesHabitats.htm.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • The Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program is available to farmers registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk. Find more information at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/efp/efp.htm .

Did you know?

A tea made from the roots of Goldenseal was used in traditional aboriginal medicine to treat a variety of complaints including ulcerated or inflamed mucous membranes. This plant continues to be popular in herbal medicine today, but only farm-grown Goldenseal should be used owing to its extreme rarity in the wild.

Did you know?

Goldenseal is one of the few at-risk woodland plants that do well in disturbed sites. Natural forms of disturbance includes fallen trees that opens up areas to light, and foraging by wildlife that results in soil turnover.

Did you know?

The seeds of Goldenseal may remain dormant in the soil for about 10 months from late July to early May before emerging. However, seedling establishment in Ontario is very low.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.