Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Plant of the Week: Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

This is one of the most popular herbal medicines used today and part of its popularity is that it is widely believed that taking it can mask a positive test for illegal drugs.  There is absolutely no scientific evidence to back this claim up.  Native Americans originally used this plant for treatment of digestive disorders, skin treatments and a wash for sore eyes.  Today it is used as an antibiotic or immune system booster, for hay fever, allergies, colds and the flu, and as a wash for minor scrapes or wounds, and for urinary tract cleansing.  The active ingredient is a chemical called berberine that can kill bacteria in studies done in the laboratory.  It appears to have some anti-bacterial properties for killing things that cause diarrhea, yeast infections, e. coli, and even some tapeworms and Giardia.  It has also been used to treat heart failure.  While it does appear to have beneficial properties, like all medications, it has drawbacks and has negative interactions with cyclosporine, digoxin, tetraclycline, and blood thinners.  Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with liver or heart disease or high blood pressure should not use goldenseal, nor should children.  This plant is considered poisonous when consumed in large quantities. As with all herbal medicines, be sure to consult with your doctor before consuming any goldenseal as it may pose significant hazards to your health.  In the garden this is not a very showy plant and usually has a pair of five lobed leaves with a single or solitary white flower (it is in the buttercup family and thus it loses its petals and sepals with just showy reproductive organs which constitute the flower).  This time of the year it has a raspberry like red, inedible fruit that is easily identified.  The root or rhizome is a bitter tasting bright yellow or brown and twisted or wrinkled in appearance.  This is best planted in rich, organic soil in the shade and is useful as an accent plant, mostly in the fall with the red berries. It will not grow in typical urban clay soils because the soil requires good drainage. It is fairly easy to grow from seed or rhizome cuttings.  It takes 5 to 7 years to grow from seed and 5 years to grow from rhizome cuttings.  The best time to plant seeds or rhizomes is in the fall and if growing from seed, the best germination rates will be obtained by gathering seeds and quickly de-fleshing the seeds from the fruit and storing at 70 F in moist sand until planting in late fall.  If planting from rhizomes, the rhizomes should be at least 1/2" long with visible, healthy roots and ideally a bud. It should be planted 2 - 3" deep.  This is one native plant that benefits from mulch and after planting a 2 - 3" layer of mulch should be applied and then every year or two afterwards depending on how much mulch is remaining.  Goldenseal is relatively free from pests and disease except for slugs which can eat the crown of the plant and the fruit.  If slugs are a problem, do not mulch the plants and attempt to control them.

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