Yellowroot

By William T. Hathaway

Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima)

Most of the woodland tails throughout Pittsylvania County harbor a low shrubby plant known as Yellowroot; creek banks and damp woods provide the typical habitat. Tiny brownish-purple flowers appear in early spring, dangling from a group of drooping floral stems topped by newly-developing leaves. The unbranched stems of this little shrub may reach knee-high to most humans.

If the plant roots are pulled up and the outer surface of the root is exposed by the scrape of a fingernail, a brilliant yellow apparition lights up the shady woodlands and evokes a sense of a surprising discovery to the uninitiated. Woodland trails offer many interesting discoveries — a fact which appeals to all who are young at heart.

Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) is a species that has a strikingly impressive scientific name that isn't easily forgotten. Gray's Manual of Botany reveals that the genus Xanthorhiza is compounded of the Greek xanthos, yellow, and rhiza, root; the specific name simplicissima is Latin meaning most simple, i.e., unbranched.



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