Threeleaf goldthread is native to eastern Eurasia, Greenland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Canada,
and the United States.
It prefers cool, moist habitats in pine and spruce forests.
Plants: These plants hug the forest floor, at 3-6" (7.6-15 cm)
in height. The roots
of these plants are long and golden yellow, hence the “goldthread” part of the name.
Leaves: Each plant is comprised of a single glossy evergreen leaf, though it
is so deeply lobed that it looks like three distinct leaves, hence the “threeleaf” part of the name.
The three leaves together form a rough rounded triangle. Leaf tips are scalloped.
emerges on a very short stem.
Flowers: Each plant produces a single, rather beautiful
flower atop a long, thin stem. It is ¼-½" (8.3-12 mm) in diameter. The things that look like five to seven white petals are
actually sepals. Inside the sepals, not looking the least bit like petals, are 4 to 7 tiny yellow petals,
shaped like diminutive spoons, with a drop of nectar in each spoon. There are many white-tipped threadlike stamens.
appear in May, and are easy to miss, since they don’t persist for very long.
Fruits: A small array of 4-7 pods, each ¼" (8.5 mm)
long, reminiscent of a candelabra.
Medical: Indigenous peoples and colonists
chewed the bitter yellow roots of
these plants to relieve canker sores, hence the common name canker-root.
The Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines
lists treatment of digestive disorders among its unproven uses.