Epimedium brachyrrhizum
Common Name: bishop's hat
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Berberidaceae
Native Range: China
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Rose-pink
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Heavy Shade, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil

Culture

Easily grown in average, acidic, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers loose, organically rich loams with consistent moisture in part shade (sun-dappled or morning sun). Foliage will usually burn in full afternoon sun. Tolerates full shade. Also tolerates drought and dry shade (rhizomes hold moisture) once established. Intolerant of alkaline soils. Clumps spread somewhat slowly by creeping rhizomes, but will form attractive colonies over time. In areas where plants are not evergreen, cut back any remaining old foliage in late winter prior to the emergence of the new growth. Propagate by division in early spring or fall.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Epimedium brachyrrhizum, commonly called bishop’s hat, fairy wings or short-root barrenwort, is a low-growing, short-rhizomed, clump-forming perennial that typically grows to 8-10” tall. It is native to wooded slopes in Guizhou Province, China where it was discovered in 1994. It is noted for having some of the largest flowers in the genus. Trifoliolate leaves are basal and cauline, with ovate to narrow-ovate, leathery, cordate-based leaflets (to 4” long and to 1 3/8” wide). New leaflets emerge in spring tinged with rose or purple but mature to dark green. Leaves are typically deciduous in winter in USDA Zones 5-7, but remain evergreen south thereof. Foliage clumps are topped in spring (April-May) with showy arching inflorescences of spider-like rose-pink flowers (to 1.5” across) with white filaments, yellow anthers and long spurs. Each inflorescence has 6-12 flowers.

Genus name is of unclear origin and meaning but the Greeks used epimedion for a very different plant.

Specific epithet comes from the Greek words brachy meaning short and rrhizum meaning root as reflected by the sometimes used common name of short-root barrenwort for this plant.

Epimediums are also commonly called bishop’s hat or bishop's mitre (four-spurred flowers of some species resemble a clergyman's biretta) or barrenwort (root extract was once believed to prevent female conception).

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Mosaic virus (transmitted by aphids) is the main disease problem.

Garden Uses

Ground cover or edger for shady areas. Mass in woodland gardens, wild gardens or naturalized areas. Also effective in partially shaded areas of rock gardens and border fronts. Grows well under trees. Edger for paths and walkways.