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Rare and Exceptional Plants for the
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Xanthorhiza simplicissima
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Xanthorhiza simplicissima

I had to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to appreciate a plant that was literally growing in my back yard.  Xanthorhiza simplicissima is the only woody member of my favorite plant family,  Ranunculaceae.

The flowers it produces in early Spring are interesting, but inconsequential.  What really knocks me out is the Autumn color,  an indescribable shade of purple that persists for weeks. I was in the UK visiting my friends,  John and Galen Carter at Rowden Gardens,  Brentor near Tavistock England.  It was a crisp,  clear November day and the Autumn foliage of the surrounding forest was magnificent. As we rounded a curve around one of the many water beds in the garden,  I was struck like a ton of bricks by the most fantastic shrub growing against a fence in the back of the garden.  I asked John what it was and he laughed,  "why you should know that shrub,  it came from you" And so it did.  What John had done was to give our native "Yellow Root" a bit more sun, a good feeding and it grew to about 4' tall and produced a fall foliage display that was unparalleled.

In the wild,  it grows happily on stream banks in sandy soil under a canopy of dappled sunlight.  In my garden,  I've underplanted it in a grove of tall Maples along a meandering path.

Xanthorhiza simplicissima is easy to propagate from the many underground runners it produces.  You'll understand why the common name is "Yellow Root" when you dig it up to divide it.  In fact a yellow dye was made from the roots by Native Americans.

Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom -
Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom -
Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision -
Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division -
Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class - Magnoliopsida
Subclass - Magnoliidae
Order - Ranunculales
Family - Ranunculaceae
Genus - Xanthorhiza
Species - simplicissima
Common name - "Yellow Root"
Synonyms - Xanthorhiza apiifolia
Native range -
USDA Hardiness Zone - at least 5, possibly 4 or 3
Light preference - Open bright shade to full shade
Soil fertility preference - Average to rich
Soil pH preference - neutral to acidic
Soil moisture preference - Moist to average
Bloom time - Early Spring
Bloom color - Bronze
Fragrance - None
Foliage - Medium green, dissected
Autumn Foliage - An indescribable shade of purple
Spread - 12" - 24"
Height - 8" - 36"
Deer palatability - Seems deerproof, at least my deer don't seem interested
Landscape uses - Front to mid shade border or wild garden
Related species - None
Medicinal uses -

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Barry Glick, Sunshine Farm and Gardens
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Last modified February 25, 2020