Coptis trifolia (L.) Salisb.
three-leaved goldthread (threeleaf goldthread)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Virginia Skilton     (Photo ID #3411)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Coptis trifolia
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

Perennial herb from a yellow to orange rhizome; stems erect, 3-12 cm tall, not elongating in fruit, minutely-hairy above.
Evergreen, all basal, stalked, 2-11 cm long, 3-parted, the leaflets unstalked or short-stalked, egg-shaped, 1-2 cm long, slightly lobed, toothed, bases wedge-shaped.
Inflorescence 1-flowered, erect; bracts minute; flower stalks 1-4 cm long; petals 5-7, half the length of sepals, club-shaped, fleshy, hollowed and with nectary near tip; sepals usually 5, whitish, spreading, oblanceolate to egg-shaped or elliptic, 4-11 mm long, 1-4 mm wide; stamens 30-60.
Follicles, 4 to 7, spreading, elliptic, 4-8 mm long, on stalks equal to or longer than fruit; beaks straight but hooked at tip, 2-4 mm long; seeds dark, ellipsoid, 1-1.5 mm long, appearing wrinkled.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.


Ecological Framework for Coptis trifolia

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres)
438 0 2120
Slope Gradient (%)
10 0 75

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

35 0 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
6 1 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class

All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in

AT(1), BWBS(5), CWH(138), ESSF(13), ICH(35), MH(11), MS(2), PP(1), SBS(3), SWB(1)

Habitat and Range

Wet forests and bogs in the lowland and montane zones; frequent W of the Coast-Cascade Mountains in BC, rare eastward; amphiberingian, N to AK, E to NF, and S to ME, WV, and MN; Siberia, Japan.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Coptis groenlandica (Oeder) Fern.
Coptis trifolia subsp. groenlandica (Oeder) HultTn
Coptis trifolia subsp. trifolia
Coptis trifolia var. groenlandica (Oeder) Fassett