Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Yellowroot - Xanthorhiza simplicissima   MarshallOnly member of Xanthorhiza in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Ranunculales » Family Ranunculaceae
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DistributionThroughout the mountains and Piedmont; present over most of the western Coastal Plain, and scattered to the coast in the southern counties. Apparently absent from a number of counties in the far eastern and northeastern Coastal Plain.

The overall range is not as wide as might be expected, being a species primarily from southern VA to AL. It ranges north only to central VA and northern WV, south to the FL Panhandle and eastern TX.
AbundanceCommon in nearly all of the mountains and Piedmont. Fairly common to common in the western Coastal Plain, and infrequent in the southern Coastal Plain. Very rare in the eastern Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis species is seldom seen farther than 10-20 feet away from a forested stream bank, often being found right where the flat land of the floodplain drops off sharply to the creek. The body of water is typically flowing, and can be a small stream to a river, but hardly any other shrub in the state “avoids” growing away from the sight of a stream than does Yellowroot.
See also Habitat Account for General River Bars and Sparsely Vegetated Shorelines
PhenologyBlooms in April and May; fruits in May and June.
IdentificationThis is a fairly low-growing deciduous shrub, like no other species; there seems to be little variation in size, as most individuals only reach about 1-1.5 feet tall. It has only a few large but strongly divided leaves, typically five sharply divided leaflets. Though a few herbaceous species can have leaves somewhat like this species, none are typically woody (with a single unbranched and upright stem) and grow so consistently along shaded creekbanks. The inflorescence consists of many small brownish-purple, 5-petaled flowers in drooping racemes, from the tip of the stem. The drooping flower cluster and overall stature of the plants should be enough for correct identification. In addition, the broken wood of the stem (and not just the root) is a bright yellow, hence the common name.
Taxonomic CommentsXanthorhiza is a monotypic genus.

Other Common Name(s)Shrub-yellowroot, Brook-feather
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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