Gillenia stipulata

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: American ipecac 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Rosaceae
Native Range: Southeastern United States
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.50 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White or light pink
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall


Easily grown in organically rich, peaty, moist but well-drained soils in part shade. Also grows well in dry rocky soils. Established plants have respectable drought tolerance. Plants appreciate some shade during the heat of the day in hot summer climates.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Gillenia stipulta, commonly called American ipecac or Indian physic, is a rhizomatous woodland perennial or sub-shrub of the rose family that typically grows to 2-3’ tall. It is native to open woods, thickets and rocky slopes from New York to southern Michigan to Kansas south to Georgia and Texas. In Missouri, it is typically found growing in acidic, dry, rocky, open woods in the northeastern, central and southern portions of the State. It sometimes appears in large hillside colonies in the Ozarks.

This plant features 1” wide, white (infrequently tinged pink) star-like flowers, each with 5 narrow, pointed, slightly reflexed petals. Flowers bloom in early summer on wiry stems rising above a foliage mound consisting of deeply cut, toothed, trifoliate, medium green leaves. Each trifoliate leaf has three linear-lanceolate leaflets (to 3.5” long), with the center leaflet being slightly larger than the lateral leaflets. Each leaf has two unusually large stipules (leaf-like bracts) at the leaf base which give the impression of each leaf having five rather than three leaflets. Leaves turn bronze-red in autumn.

This plant closely resembles Gillenia trifoliata, but its leaves are short-stalked, its leaflets are somewhat more deeply cut or toothed, and its large stipules at the base of each leaf persist throughout the life of the plant, whereas in G. trifoliata, the stipules drop quickly.

Synonymus with Porteranthus stipulatus.

Specific epithet is in reference to the two leaf-like stipules located at the base of each trifoliate leaf.

Common name of American ipecac is in reference to an old time medicinal use of the powdered roots of this plant as a laxative and emetic by Native Americans.


No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for slugs.


Woodland gardens. Native plant areas. Naturalized areas. Borders. Dappled shade areas of the landscape. Shady edging.