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Perennials: Porteranthus trifoliatus

Botanical name: Porteranthus trifoliatus

Common name: Bowman's Root

also known as (Gillenia trifoliata, Indian physic)

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Brooklyn, Ny

at a glance

Soil: dry, acidic, sand
Zones: 4a thru 8b

fall interest, butterfly attracting, bee attracting, drought tolerant

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description for "Perennials: Porteranthus trifoliatus "

Bowman's Root is an easy-to-grow native for bright shade or partial sun. It tolerates tree root competition well as long at it has a nice layer organic mulch. Bowman's-root is lovely in a mass planting where its lacy white flowers can shimmer in a light breeze. The compact rounded plant is topped in late spring with ethereal white flowers growing in a few loose terminal panicles, with red petioles and mahogany stems. Clean, disease-free foliage often turns deep bronzy red in fall and contrasts beautifully with the more typical oranges and yellows in the perennial border. Bowman's Root thrives best in moist, acid to neutral, humus rich soil, but is quite drought tolerant once established. It prefers shade in the hottest part of the day. Use as backround plant in perennial beds or in mass plantings to give full airy effect. Interesting form and unique seed heads persist into winter. Great for cut flowers! [Source:]


The two species of Indian-physic have a rich tradition as medicinals, but they have been inexplicably neglected as garden plants. This is unfortunate as they are outstanding ornamentals for a wide variety of garden situations. Porteranthus trifoliatus was used by Native Americans as a powerful emetic for a yearly cleansing, thus giving it the common names Indian Physic and American Ipecac. It is likely that Bowman's Root also refers to this practice since early English settlers often called the Native Americans "Bowmen". Gillenia trifioliata can be found in rich woods in the mountains and piedmonts from Massachussetts to Georgia.

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