Jeffersonia diphylla Berberidaceae

Growth habit




Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, Eastern N. America


A 12-16" tall plant with short-lived white flowers, attractive foliage, and oddly shaped seed pods.
Light: shade
Moisture and Soil: moist, acid-neutral soil


Seed Treatment and Storage: Keep seed moist; provide warm/moist, then cold/moist stratification. May take 2-3 years for all seeds to germinate

Biocultural value

The Haudenosaunee prescribed a decoction of the whole plant to adults and children with diarrhea. The Cherokee took an infusion for kidney problems and applied a poultice to sores, ulcers and inflamed skin.

The statements above were sourced from:

Native American Ethnobotany Database: http://naeb.BRIT Native American Ethnobotany

Wildlife value

Twinleaf flowers often self pollinate, but the flowers are also visited by pollen-collecting halictid bees. Ants collect and disperse the seeds in return for the elaisome, while rodents simply chew open the capsule and eat the seeds themselves.

Smith, Brent H., Margaret L. Ronsheim, and Kathryn R. Swartz. “Reproductive Ecology of Jeffersonia Diphylla (Berberidaceae).” American Journal of Botany 73, no. 10 (1986): 1416–26.

Climate change sensitivity

Over the period from 1986 to 2015, Jeffersonia diphylla bloomed an average of 5.4 days earlier.


Mundy Wildflower Garden, Treman Woodland Walk, Young Flower Garden

Source of plant

Big Dipper Farm, Mary Hirshfeld, Arrowhead Alpines


Leaves all basal, peltate, divided into 2 ovate lobes; flowers white, solitary, saucer-shaped, long-stemmed, effective in May. Foliage often turns a bronze-brown in autumn. Twinleaf is listed as legally threatened in New York State but the species is demonstrably secure worldwide.

USDA Hardiness Zone


Special characteristics

Jeffersonia is the only plant genus named to honor Thomas Jefferson (a second species occurs in eastern Asia). Although the white flowers are very short lived, the jar-like seed capsule is well worth looking for.