Bowman’s Root

Indian Physic, Fawn’s Breath,
or Bowman’s Root
Gillenia trifoliate

Bowman's Root
Bowman’s Root: white flowers, red stems

The five narrow petals on this white flower protrude from the center in an irregular fashion. Perched atop dainty red stems, the blooms appear to just float in the air! Spent flowers are replaced immediately by bright red calyxes. The bushy plant grows 2 to 3 ft. tall and has attractive foliage made up of dark green, compound leaves (they are trifoliate) with reddish stems.

The common name bowman is a reference to Native Americans (bow men). It refers to the fact that the root of the plant was used medicinally by Native Americans as a laxative and an emetic (for stomach upset).

Although it is really a native wildflower, bowman’s root makes an excellent addition to home gardens and can be purchased commercially. The photos here were taken along the side of the road at Primland Resort near Meadows of Dan, and also at Pandapas Pond in Montgomery County, VA. The plants were also blooming profusely along the Blue Ridge Parkway in late May and early June. In general, bloom time in Virginia for Bowman’s root is late spring to early summer.

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