Bowman's Root Gillenia trifoliata

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
Bowman's root


The plant known as Bowman's Root is an elegant, herbaceous perennial that is native to the woodlands and meadows of Eastern North America. This plant is recognized for its airy and open appearance, which adds a delicate texture to garden landscapes. Bowman's Root features slender, reddish stems that bear compound leaves divided into three leaflets. These leaves have a toothy edge and are arranged alternately along the stem, creating a feathery foliage effect. The leaflets are dark green on top with a paler underside, turning to shades of yellow or red in the autumn, which provides seasonal interest. During late spring to early summer, Bowman's Root produces an abundance of star-shaped, five-petaled flowers. The blossoms are modestly sized and usually white or pale pink with a more pronounced pink veining, giving them a distinct and intricate look. The flowers are arranged in loose, terminal clusters and have a slightly nodding posture, which adds to the plant's whimsical charm. Following the flowering period, Bowman's Root develops small, dry capsules as fruits. The overall impression of this plant is one of airy grace and gentle movement, as the flowers and foliage can sway captivatingly with the breeze.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Bowman's Root, Indian Physic, American Ipecac, Gillenia, Dropwort.

    • Common names

      Porteranthus trifoliatus, Gillenia stipulacea, Spiraea trifoliata.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Bowman's root is not typically considered toxic to humans. It has even been used traditionally in small amounts as a medicinal plant. However, as with any plant, some individuals might be sensitive or allergic to it and may experience adverse reactions if ingested. These could potentially include gastrointestinal discomfort such as nausea or diarrhea. Consumption in large quantities could exacerbate these symptoms. Always exercise caution and consult a healthcare provider before ingesting any part of a plant with which you are not familiar.

    • To pets

      Bowman's root is not commonly known to be toxic to pets. However, pets may have different sensitivities than humans, and ingesting plants can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal upset in animals, including symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. If a pet ingests a large amount of the plant, it is advisable to monitor them for any signs of distress and consult a veterinarian if any adverse health issues arise.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters)

    • Spread

      2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      North America


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Attracts Pollinators: Gillenia trifoliata, commonly known as Bowman's Root, is beneficial for attracting bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects to the garden for pollination.
    • Aesthetic Appeal: This plant offers delicate, star-shaped white flowers and attractive foliage that add visual interest to garden spaces.
    • Native Plant Gardening: As a native North American species, incorporating Bowman's Root into gardens can help support local ecosystems and biodiversity.
    • Erosion Control: The root system of Bowman's Root can help stabilize soil and prevent erosion in garden areas or natural landscapes.
    • Drought Tolerance: Once established, Bowman's Root can tolerate periods of drought, reducing the need for frequent watering.
    • Wildlife Habitat: It provides habitat and food sources for wildlife, especially caterpillars of certain moth species that use the plant as a host.
    • Seasonal Interest: With its spring blooms and vibrant fall foliage, Bowman's Root offers multi-season interest in the garden.
    • Low Maintenance: It is generally low-maintenance, requiring minimal care once established in the appropriate conditions.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Antispasmodic: Used traditionally to ease spasms within the digestive system.
    • Diaphoretic: Can induce sweating and has been used to help reduce fevers.
    • Emetic: At higher doses, it has been used to induce vomiting for cleansing purposes.
    • Laxative: Has mild laxative effects and has been used to relieve constipation.
    • Tonic: Considered a gentle tonic for the digestive system.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Decorative Dried Flowers: Gillenia trifoliata's seed heads and dried foliage can be used in floral arrangements for an intriguing textural element.
    • Butterfly Attraction: It serves as a nectar source to attract and feed butterflies in a garden setting, promoting pollinator biodiversity.
    • Natural Garden Borders: Their clumping growth habit makes them suitable for creating natural borders or divisions within garden spaces.
    • Artistic Inspiration: Because of its unique and delicate star-shaped flowers, it can inspire botanical illustrations and garden designs.
    • Eco-Friendly Confetti: The dried petals of the Gillenia trifoliata can be used as biodegradable confetti for outdoor celebrations.
    • Photography Subject: The plant's aesthetic appeal makes it a beautiful subject for nature photography and macro imagery.
    • Soil Erosion Control: Its root system may help reduce soil erosion on slopes or banks within landscape designs.
    • Educational Tool: Can be used in educational settings to teach about plant life cycles and native flora conservation.
    • Theme Gardens: Perfect for inclusion in a 'white garden' theme, where flowers of white hues are predominantly featured.
    • Culinary Garnish: While not commonly used for consumption, the flowers could potentially be explored as an edible garnish for their visual appeal, assuming they are verified as safe and non-toxic.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    Bowman's root is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    Bowman's root is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Delicacy: Gillenia trifoliata, commonly known as Bowman's Root, features delicate flowers that can symbolize the finer, more delicate aspects of life or beauty.
    • Purity: The white flowers of Bowman's Root are often associated with purity and innocence, much like other white-flowered plants.
    • Spirituality: The airy nature of the plant's flowers and foliage can evoke a sense of the ethereal and symbolize spiritual matters or aspirations.
    • Balance: With its trifoliate (three-part) leaves, Bowman's Root can represent the concept of balance, particularly the balance of body, mind, and spirit.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring to summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    Bowman's root, also known as Gillenia trifoliata, should be watered deeply and less frequently to encourage strong root growth. Aim to water approximately once a week during the growing season, providing about 1 to 1.5 gallons of water each time, depending on the soil moisture and climate conditions. In periods of drought, watering frequency may need to be increased. During the winter months, reduce watering as the plant goes dormant and requires less moisture. It's better to check the soil moisture by touch—water when the top inch of soil feels dry to avoid overwatering.

  • sunLight

    Bowman's root thrives best in partial shade, especially in areas with hot summers. It can tolerate full sun in cooler climates but prefers dappled sunlight or a spot that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Avoid deep shade as it may result in fewer flowers and a less vigorous plant. Ideal lighting conditions strike a balance, offering protection from harsh midday sun while providing enough light for healthy growth.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Bowman's root is hardy and can tolerate a range of temperature conditions once established. It can survive minimum winter temperatures down to -20°F and is comfortable in summer temperatures up to 85°F. Its ideal growing temperatures, however, are between 60°F and 75°F. This plant does not thrive in extremely hot conditions, so protection from intense heat may be necessary in hotter climates.

  • scissorsPruning

    To maintain health and vigor, Bowman's root should be pruned to remove any dead or damaged stems. Pruning can also help to shape the plant and encourage denser foliage. The best time for pruning is in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Typically, this plant does not require heavy pruning, so only minimal trimming is necessary. Annual or biennial pruning is often adequate for keeping the plant in good condition.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Bowman's root prefers well-draining soil rich in organic matter with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 7.0 for optimal growth, so a mix consisting of loamy garden soil, compost, and a little sand would be ideal.

  • plantRepotting

    Bowman's root is a perennial that does not typically require frequent repotting; it can be repotted every 3-4 years or when it outgrows its current container.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Bowman's root thrives best in moderate humidity levels but is quite adaptable and does not have specific humidity requirements, making it suitable for a range of environmental conditions.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place Bowman's root in bright, indirect light and well-draining soil.

    • Outdoor

      Plant Bowman's root in partial shade to full sun and moist soil.

    • Hardiness zone

      4-8 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Gillenia trifoliata, commonly known as Bowman's root, begins its lifecycle as a seed, which after stratification, germinates in the cool, moist conditions of spring. The seedling emerges and develops into a rosette of leaves at the soil surface, gradually establishing a deep, woody rhizome. As it matures, the plant sends up erect, branched stems with trifoliate leaves and in early summer, it produces star-shaped white or pale pink flowers with distinctive, long stamens. Following pollination, typically by insects, the flowers develop into dry, dehiscent capsules which eventually release seeds. During the fall, the foliage often turns to attractive shades of orange, red, or yellow before the plant enters dormancy in winter, disappearing below ground until the next growing season. This perennial cycle continues year after year, with the plant slowly creating larger clumps and spreading through seed dispersal.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to summer

    • Propogation: The most popular method of propagating Gillenia trifoliata, commonly known as Bowman's root, is by seed. Sow the seeds in a cold frame as soon as they are ripe, usually in the fall, to allow a winter period of stratification. The seed has a better chance of germination if it experiences the natural cycle of seasonal temperatures. After the last frost of spring, the young seedlings can be transplanted into individual pots. Once they have grown large enough to handle and have developed a strong root system, typically by the following spring, they can be planted out into their permanent positions in the garden. It is important to keep them well-watered until they are fully established.