Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Bowman's Root, Indian Physic, Fawn's Breath
Gillenia trifoliata

Family: Rosaceae (ro-ZAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Gillenia (jil-LEE-nee-uh) (Info)
Species: trifoliata (try-foh-lee-AY-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Porteranthus trifoliatus

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

5 members have or want this plant for trade.


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 14 photos.
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6 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Esther35r On Nov 21, 2012, Esther35r from Enumclaw, WA wrote:

It is a beautiful graceful plant that does well in the Pacific Northwest, but it took it a while to really get started.

I have a question. When can it be pruned? Can it be pruned to the ground?

Positive Marybel99 On Apr 27, 2012, Marybel99 from Ridgefield, CT wrote:

This is a wonderful perennial in my CT garden. I inherited it when I moved here in 2006, and I look forward each spring for its shoots that grow fast to about 3 feet high with scads of billowy small white blooms that look like little fluttering butterflies. I have successfully propagated it by very careful small divisions without losing the parent plant. No nearby nurseries offer it for sale.

Mine are in full sun, but I am planting new ones I sent for from Oregon in partial sun next to the baptisia on the other side of the garden.

I LOVE this plant. It's well behaved and, at full growth, a pleasure to behold!

Positive lakeshoredrive On Dec 31, 2008, lakeshoredrive from Chicago, IL wrote:

This plant is easy to grow, the dainty flowers are beautiful, it's native and it takes on great red fall color.

Positive grik On Jun 22, 2008, grik from Saint Paul, MN wrote:

I don't understand why this plant is not more popular. When it is in bloom it has a delicate grace. It's flowers bring to mind many tiny white butterflies dancing around the plant.

When they finish blooming it fades to the background but is never an eyesore. It lookes great growing with hostas. You can propagate it easily from cuttings.

Positive ltcweo On Jun 3, 2006, ltcweo from Allentown, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

I moved this plant from my New England garden to eastern PA last fall and it came back quite nicely. In both cases it was growing on the north side of the house. It is a beautiful delicate looking plant which can easily be overlooked if grown with larger more robust looking specimens..

Positive tputnam On Nov 7, 2003, tputnam from Northampton, MA wrote:

While slow to get started, this native to the NE is a great addition to the perennial border, woodland garden or shady garden areas. Benefits from initial support as young shoots tend to lay on the ground; mature plants also need staking (at least under my growing conditions). Lovely white flowers with contrasting reddish buds; personally, I wouldn't do without it.
Adopted by American colonists; listed in U.S. Pharmacopoeia (1820-82; Gillenia trifoliata) - root bark used medicinally as emetic, purgative and expectorant.

Neutral Baa On Nov 23, 2001, Baa wrote:

An erect perennial from Eastern North America.

Has toothed, 3-palmate, bronze green leaves on reddish stems. Bears white to pink flushed, lance shaped petal flowers.

Flowers anywhere between May and September.

Likes a moist, well drained, acid - neutral, humus rich soil in partial shade, will tolerate sun but needs shade in the hottest part of the day. Great in a woodland garden.

Good for cutting


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Ridgefield, Connecticut
Lula, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Hanna City, Illinois
Plainfield, Illinois
Buckfield, Maine
Northampton, Massachusetts
Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts
Royal Oak, Michigan
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Maplewood, New Jersey
Painted Post, New York
Sag Harbor, New York
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Broomall, Pennsylvania
Pennsburg, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Enumclaw, Washington

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