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, http://www.biology.duke.edu/dnhs/pics/Xanthosim.jpg 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 - http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/cgi/b98_map?genus=Xanthorhiza&species=simplicissima 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 AutumnFoliage - 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 - http://plants.gardenbed.com/73/7284_med.asp