A Golden Seal Upon My Heart

Five years ago I visited my local garden center looking for an unusual plant. The greenhouse overflowed with exotic beauty, but the plant that drew my eye was tucked under one of the tables, wilted, forgotten, and alone. It had one drooping leaf perched upon a short stalk, Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis from the family Ranunculaceae. My heart leaped! I ran to the owner and said, “I want that one,” pointing to the neglected plant.

Goldenseal is an endangered plant that grows in the Appalachian Mountains from New York to South Carolina and west to Ohio. It prefers full shade and moist, fertile soil with deep leaf litter. I set about recreating those conditions in a four by four patch of shaded ground tucked close to the foundation of my house. In the fall, I would bury the plant with leaves, and unearth it in the spring in anticipation. This ritual has become a habit that renews my hope, as I wait for that single blade to emerge from the soil.

This year the Goldenseal has once again returned and flourished. When I last looked it was flowering…a small miracle. In spite of the fact that it is an uninteresting looking plant with a plain flower, beneath the ground its rhizomes contain strong alkaloids, one of which is Berberine. These alkaloids have antimicrobial properties. The yellow sap that bleeds from the roots when they are damaged is filled with powerful medicine. This is the reason that people have harvested so much of it from its mountain home.

No longer unappreciated, the patch of Goldenseal keeps company with European Wild Ginger, Bloodroot, Solomon Seal, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Cowslip, Angelica, and Nettles in my yard. Sometimes what seems to be quite ordinary, reveals remarkable treasure in its depth. People, like plants, require patience and care before they can truly flourish. It has taken five years for me to see that tiny white flower. The hope I have in seeing Goldenseal’s spring flower extends to all things. I am reminded of my inner promise to be patient with myself and with others as we grow.

Sites with wonderful artwork and photos related to plant and conservation see:

Melissa Blue Fine Art

Portraits of Wild Flowers

For more information about creating a plant sanctuary in your yard go to this website for United Plant Savers.

https://www.unitedplantsavers.org/goldenseal-hydrastis-canadensis

Photo: Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis from my garden

Published 5/11/2016 I am working on an update to be posted this week.

20 thoughts on “A Golden Seal Upon My Heart

        1. Yes, I have heard of Ayurvedic. I mostly studied wesern herbs. Ayurvedic medicine fascinates me, however because I was educated in a western mindset, it has taken a while for me to understand the philosophy behind eastern medicine and diagnosis. It is something that I am trying to integrate if that makes any sense. There are many regulations in the United States. I mostly work to save endangered plants.

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          1. Maria the concept is universal however practice and ideology varies. Many western studies confirm findings of ayurveda as quite precise -not entirely though. Ayurveda certainly studied plants found in India. Many plants didn’t exist here. Even large number of ayurvedic plants are hard to find here now -endangered!!
            It’s great to know you’re contributing to save endangered plants! Keep going. 🙂

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  1. Good for you for nurturing this native plant. Let’s hope your specimen thrives.

    My intuition is that the sentiment attributed to Hildegard von Bingen isn’t hers. It strikes me as way too modern. When I searched online, every instance I found of those words gave only the name Hildegard von Bingen, and never a specific work of hers. That sort of widespread name-only attribution is usually a sign that the attribution is incorrect. I wonder if someone in our own times wrote a play about Hildegard von Bingen and put those words in her mouth.

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  2. Ah such a beauty – and treasure well worth the extra efforts and the rewards are worth the wait. And considering this beauty sits in great company makes it all, even when not blooming, worth the while, for is their greater joy than noticing the subtle differences in leaf textures, such as when their might be early morning dew, or rain drops beading? Sometimes, even in the “dullest” moments, (according to some who prefer all flash all the time), the most sublime capture of light, air and moisture all comes together in stunning ways.

    May your garden continue to grow and be healthy. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your beautiful words. The Goldenseal is my only fussy plant. The nettles are kept confined to the edge of the woods because they sting. Everything else grows where it pleases. The wild spaces reflect the secret, free places deep in the heart. I think you understand…

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  3. That was a lovely message in the tending of such a beautiful and vulnerable thing. I have given over my garden this year to wildflowers and it is so rewarding to be part of the drive to reinstate such values. From plants to bees to butterflies…becoming endangered too on a long list. All I can do is plant, write and pay my subs. I was glad to read you actually work in this field. More power to you. And I enjoy reading your beautifully accentuated articles.

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