Jeffersonia diphylla is part of the Berberidaceae family of plants. It is native to Eastern North America and is a clump-forming perennial plant. They also call it the Twinleaf, Blue Twinleaf, Helmet Pod, Ground Squirrel Pea, North American Rheumatism root, or Rheumatism root.
Benjamin Smith Barton (1766-1815), an American botanist named Jeffersonia diphylla after Thomas Jefferson(1743-1826), president of the United States.
It grows to 8in or 20cm tall. Jeffersonia diphylla flowers in April and it has white flowers. The flowers are cup-shaped about 2.5cm or 1in wide. They have about eight petals.
The foliage is blue-green. The basal leaves are divided appearing almost like two leaves. This is the reason for the common name Twinleaf. The leaves grow directly from the rhizomes. The fruit is green in color and a pear-shaped capsule.
How to grow Jeffersonia diphylla:
Grow Jeffersonia diphylla in partial shade. Usually under large deciduous trees are ideal as they will get a bit more sun in early spring. Plant it in moist, humus-rich but well-drained soil. The limestone soil is best for Jeffersonia diphylla. Keep the soil moist but never wet. It is a low-maintenance plant. Generally, it is disease-free, but watch out for slugs and snails. Propagate by seed in or division in autumn. The new plant could take two to three years to flower.
Jeffersonia diphylla roots contain a substance called berberine, which is an anti-tumor alkaloid. American Indians such as Cherokee and Iroquois used this plant in their traditional medicines. They used it to treat dropsy, gall, and diarrhea. Jeffersonia diphylla is an endangered species in North America and it is protected.