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Jeffersonia diphylla

Pronunciation: jeff-ur-SOE-nee-uh dye-FILL-uh
Family: Berberidaceae
Common Name: Twinleaf
Plant Type:
  • perennial
Height to: 8in (20cm)
Width to: 6in (15cm)
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • -10 to -20ºF ZONE 5
  • 0 to -10ºF ZONE 6
  • 10 to 0ºF ZONE 7
Sun Exposure:
  • full shade
  • part sun
Bloom Season:
  • late spring
  • early summer
Bloom Description: Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) bear solitary, cup shaped white flowers, 1in (2.5cm) wide
Soil Type: Moist, humus rich soil
Plant Perks:
  • Medicinal
Pests and Diseases: Slugs and snails
Propagation: sow Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) seed in containers in an open frame as soon as ripe. Divide established plants in spring
Native to: North America (Ontario to Tennessee)
Winter Sowing Zones: 5-7
Notes for Identification:

Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) is a tuft forming perennial with kidney-shaped, deeply cleft leaves, to 6in (15cm) across, pale gray green above, and glaucous, pale green beneath.

Care:  Top-dress with leaf mold or other humus rich material in autumn

USDA Twinleaf is a member of the Berberidaceae (Barberry) family. This family contains perennial herbs or shrubs with often-spiny stems and/or leaves and flowers borne singly or in clusters or racemes. Only one other species of twinleaf occurs in the world: J. dubia, found in Japan. His friend and fellow botanist, William Bartram, named the genus in honor of Thomas Jefferson.

Twinleaf has one white flower atop a leafless stalk appearing in April-May. The flower is about 2.5 cm wide (1 inch), with four sepals that eventually drop off, and eight petals. The fruit that follows is a large, dry, pear-shaped capsule, with a tiny-hinged lid. Its leaves can be up to 15 cm long (6 inches), and are basal, long-stemmed, and divided lengthwise into wing-like halves. This is a very distinctive characteristic. The plant is short while flowering and fruiting (12.5 to 25 cm; 5-10 inches) and increases to 45 cm (1.5 feet) as the fruit mature.

Other both common and species names suggest a plant with two leaves, there are actually more. Each leaf is divided into two nearly separate leaflets. Twinleaf is found in rich, damp, open woods usually in limestone soils. It can be found from Ontario, Canada and New York south to Georgia and Alabama, and northwest to Iowa and Minnesota.

Native Americans used the root as a tea for cramps, spasms, nervous excitability, diarrhea, a diuretic for kidney stones and urinary infections, and as a gargle for sore throats. Externally it was used as a wash for rheumatism, sores, ulcers, inflammation, and cancerous sores. The plant is probably toxic, so caution should be used if preparing it for modern day use!

Source: Various sources including The American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants and the USDA

 

USDA Heat Zones (days above 86ºF):
  • 30 to 45 days ZONE 5
  • 45 to 60 days ZONE 6
  • 60 to 90 days ZONE 7
Seed photo: 0
Located in: Perennials
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