Goldthread Coptis quinquefolia

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Edible
‍🌱 Hard-care
five-leaved goldthread


Coptis quinquefolia, more commonly known as goldthread, is a perennial herb notable for its glossy, dark green leaves which are divided into three to five distinctly lobed leaflets. Each leaflet is narrowly oblong, with toothed edges resembling a jagged saw blade. The plant boasts small, white flowers that have numerous stamens, giving them a delicate, fluffy appearance. These flowers usually have a central, prominent golden yellow core, which is where the common name "goldthread" derives from, alluding to the thread-like, bright yellow roots of the plant. After flowering, goldthread produces follicles with seeds that are dispersed by wind or water. The overall appearance of goldthread is a low-growing ground cover with a subtle charm, punctuated by its vibrant roots and dainty white blossoms.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Goldthread, Fiveleaf Goldthread

    • Common names

      Coptis quinquefolia has no known synonyms; its basic scientific name provided is the valid name for this species.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Coptis quinquefolia, commonly known as goldthread, contains high concentrations of berberine, which can be toxic to humans when consumed in large amounts. Ingesting parts of the plant such as roots can lead to symptoms including stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, nosebleed, respiratory failure, and can affect the central nervous system. Patients may exhibit signs like dizziness, fainting, and lowered blood pressure. In severe cases, excessive consumption can lead to organ damage or be potentially fatal. Handling the plant may also cause skin irritation in some individuals.

    • To pets

      Goldthread, or Coptis quinquefolia, is also toxic to pets due to the presence of berberine. If ingested by animals like dogs and cats, they may experience symptoms similar to humans, including gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and in some cases, more severe symptoms such as tremors, seizures, or respiratory difficulty. The severity of the poisoning can vary depending on the size of the pet and the amount consumed, and it can lead to serious health complications or death if not treated promptly. It's important for pet owners to contact a veterinarian immediately if they suspect their pet has ingested goldthread.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      1 foot [30 cm]

    • Spread

      1 foot [30 cm]

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      East Asia


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Value: Coptis quinquefolia, commonly known as Goldthread, is often admired for its delicate foliage and small, white flowers, making it a beautiful addition to shade gardens and naturalized woodland areas.
    • Ecosystem Support: The plant provides nectar and pollen for a variety of insect pollinators, thus contributing to the local biodiversity.
    • Soil Stabilization: Goldthread can help in stabilizing soil in moist, shaded environments, reducing erosion and improving soil health.
    • Traditional Uses: Indigenous peoples have historically used the plant for various non-medicinal purposes such as dyeing fabrics, due to the golden color of its roots.
    • Low Maintenance: The plant is generally low maintenance once established in appropriate conditions, making it an easy addition for gardeners.
    • Cultural Significance: In some cultures, Goldthread is recognized for its aesthetic appeal and has been featured in art, literature, and symbolism.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Antibacterial: Contains berberine, which may help fight bacteria and fungi.
    • Anti-inflammatory: May reduce inflammation, potentially assisting with inflammation-related conditions.
    • Antioxidant: Possesses compounds that might protect against oxidative stress.
    • Gastrointestinal health: Traditional use for gastrointestinal disorders, possibly due to its alkaloids.
    • Liver protection: May offer protective effects to the liver through its bioactive substances.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Dye production: The roots of Coptis quinquefolia can be used to produce a yellow dye, traditionally utilized for coloring fabrics and handicrafts.
    • Insect repellent: The plant can sometimes be used to repel insects due to its strong aroma and potentially toxic substances to some insects.
    • Photographic development: Some components found in Coptis quinquefolia have been used in the past for developing photographic plates due to their light-sensitive properties.
    • Garden ornamental: With its attractive foliage, Coptis quinquefolia can be planted for aesthetic purposes in shade gardens or woodland settings.
    • Ceremonial uses: In certain cultures, parts of the plant may be used for ceremonial or ritual purposes due to its unique properties or symbolism.
    • Literature and folklore: Coptis quinquefolia may feature in literature or folklore, providing inspiration for stories, poems, and traditional tales.
    • Education and research: The plant can be utilized as a subject for botanical study and educational purposes, helping students and researchers understand plant biology and ecology.
    • Companion planting: The plant might be used in companion planting to benefit other plants, perhaps by deterring pests or as a marker plant due to its distinct appearance.
    • Flavoring agent: In historic times or in specific regional cuisines, parts of Coptis quinquefolia may have been used to impart bitterness in food as a flavoring agent.
    • Natural art material: The structure and form of the leaves and rhizomes can be used in natural art projects for textural and visual interest.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The plant Coptis quinquefolia is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The plant Coptis quinquefolia is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Protection: Coptis quinquefolia, commonly known as Goldthread, has been associated with protective properties, possibly stemming from its use in traditional medicine to fight infections and ailments.
    • Purity: Due to its bright yellow roots, Goldthread can symbolize purity and cleanliness, highlighting its historical use in purifying the body and treating digestive issues.
    • Longevity: The durability and resilience of Goldthread in harsh environments may symbolize longevity and the ability to thrive despite challenges.
    • Healing: As Goldthread has been used in traditional remedies, it often symbolizes healing, both physical and spiritual, reflecting its role in various cultures to soothe and restore health.

Every 1-2 weeks
500 - 2500 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring to summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    Goldthread should be watered deeply enough to saturate the root zone, then allowed to dry out slightly before the next watering. As a general rule, watering once a week with about 1 to 1.5 gallons of water should be sufficient during active growth in spring and summer, but always check the soil moisture first. During the dormant winter months, reduce watering frequency to every two to three weeks, depending on indoor conditions and humidity. Over-watering can lead to root rot, so ensuring proper drainage is essential.

  • sunLight

    Goldthread thrives in dappled or part shade conditions, mimicking its natural understory habitat. It's best to place goldthread in a spot where it will receive filtered sunlight for the majority of the day, avoiding direct, harsh afternoon sun. An east or north-facing window offers ideal light when grown indoors. If grown outdoors, a location under the canopy of larger plants or trees can provide the kind of soft light goldthread prefers.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Goldthread prefers cool to moderate temperatures and can typically withstand temperatures down to about 20°F as well as thrive up to about 75°F. Avoid exposing the plant to temperature extremes, either from cold drafts or heat sources. The ideal temperature range for goldthread is between 50°F and 70°F for optimal growth.

  • scissorsPruning

    Generally, goldthread does not require significant pruning. It may benefit from a light trimming to remove any dead or yellowing foliage, primarily to maintain plant health and aesthetic appearance. The best time to prune goldthread is in the early spring before new growth starts. If required, this minimal pruning can be done annually.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Goldthread thrives in moist, well-drained soil with high organic matter and prefers a slightly acidic pH between 5.5 and 6.5. A mixture of peat, perlite, and pine bark would create an ideal environment for the roots.

  • plantRepotting

    Goldthread should be repotted every two to three years or when the plant has outgrown its current container, to refresh the soil and allow room for growth.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Goldthread prefer high humidity levels, generally around 80-90%, to mimic their natural forest floor habitat.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Keep Goldthread in low light and high humidity; water when topsoil is dry.

    • Outdoor

      Plant Goldthread in shaded area with moist, rich soil.

    • Hardiness zone

      4-8 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Coptis quinquefolia, commonly known as goldthread, starts its life cycle as a seed that germinates in moist, rich soil typically in a shaded, woodland environment. After germination, the seedling emerges and develops into a young plant with a small rosette of three- to five-parted leaves. As it matures, goldthread forms a rhizome, an underground stem that is characteristic of the species, growing horizontally and sending out roots and shoots. The plant eventually blooms in early spring, producing small white flowers with numerous stamens and a central pistil. After pollination, mostly by insects, it develops a fruit that contains several seeds, completing its reproductive cycle. Goldthread is a perennial plant, so after the growing season, it goes dormant, with the rhizome surviving winter to regrow the following spring.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to summer

    • Goldthread, or Coptis quinquefolia, is commonly propagated through division, which is often done in the early spring or fall. The most popular method is by dividing the rhizomes, where gardeners carefully dig up the plant and gently separate the rhizomes into smaller segments, each with at least one growth point or bud. These segments are then planted into moist, well-draining soil, maintaining a depth of about 1 inch (2.54 cm) to ensure they are covered but not too deep to prevent new growth. The soil should be kept uniformly moist, but not waterlogged, while the new divisions establish themselves. This method is favored for its simplicity and effectiveness in expanding goldthread colonies while maintaining the genetic traits of the mother plant.