Perry's Perennial Pages

Gillenia trifoliata

    Perennial of the Month-- October 2004 

(gil-le-nee-ah) (pronunciation at link, turn up volume if too low)

Common name: Bowmans Root, Indian-Physic, Ipecac

Family: Rosaceae, rose

Height x Width: 2-3 x 3

Growth Rate, habit: moderate, upright mounded

Foliage: alternate, sessile to sub-sessile, trifolite; leaflets stalked, sharply serrate; turn reddish in fall

Flowers: five-petaled, star shaped, persistent calyx becoming red after petals fall.  Borne in large, loose panicles axillary and terminal, on long peduncles.  White or pink. late June in USDA zone 4.

Hardiness: zones 4-8

Soil: prefers moist, well-drained- but will tolerate dryer soils.

Light: full sun or partial shade

Pests & Problems: none serious

Landscape Habit, Uses: Gillenia is well utilized in the border, where it looks best massed although single specimens as background to perennials are quite attractive; native gardens, woodland edges; good seedheads for winter interest; suitable for cut flowers; combines well with Amsonia, Baptisia, ornamental grasses such as red-leaved or blue-leaved Panicum cultivars, perennial geranium in foreground

Other Interest: Gillenia is native to the eastern U.S. Another species is G. stipulata, Indian Physic, similar to G. trifoliata, but leaflets are narrower and it is not as ornamental (western species). Grown as species, no cultivars. Known in past as Spiraea trifoliata or Porteranthus trifoliatus.  Names for Arnoldus Gillenius, a 17th century botanist. Common names for rhizomes which (bark) are mildly emetic and cathartic, somewhat resembling ipecac in action.

Other Culture: easily grown, tolerates wet and dry conditions once established; may need some support if soil is too rich

Propagation: Division, seed.  Division may be readily done in the spring (preferable) or fall.  Seed is difficult to germinate and is best sown outside in the fall to satisfy the warm-cold stratification it requires.  It will germinate the following spring.

Sources: wholesale North Creek Nursery, retail at specialty native plant and perennial specialty nurseries

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