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Coptis occidentalis flowers
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Subfamily: Coptidoideae
Genus: Coptis
Type species
Coptis trifolia

See text

Coptis (goldthread or canker root) is a genus of between 10 and 15 species of flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, native to Asia and North America.


Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Coptis aspleniifolia Salisb. fernleaf goldthread, spleenwort-leaf goldthread British Columbia, in Alaska, and along the Cascades into Washington
Coptis chinensis Franch. Chinese goldthread China.
Coptis deltoidea C.Y.Cheng & P.K.Hsiao China (W. Sichuan)
Coptis huanjiangensis L.Q.Huang, Q.J.Yuan & Y.H.Wang China (Guangxi)
Coptis japonica (Thunb.) Makino Japanese goldthread Japan
Coptis kitayamensis Kadota Japan (Honshu)
Coptis laciniata A.Gray Oregon goldthread California, Oregon, Washington State
Coptis lutescens Tamura Japan (C. Honshu)
Coptis minamitaniana Kadota Japan (Kyushu)
Coptis occidentalis (Nutt.) Torr. & A.Gray Idaho goldthread Idaho, Montana, Washington
Coptis omeiensis (F.H.Chen) C.Y.Cheng China (W. Sichuan, Henan)
Coptis quinquefolia Miq. Taiwan, Japan
Coptis quinquesecta W.T.Wang Yunnan, China and northern Vietnam.
Coptis ramosa (Makino) Tamura Japan
Coptis teeta Wall. Yunnan goldthread Arunachal Pradesh to China (NW. Yunnan)
Coptis trifolia (L.) Salisb. threeleaf goldthread, savoyane, canker-root Eastern Eurasia, Greenland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Canada, USA
Coptis trifoliolata (Makino) Makino Japan (N. & Central Honshu)
Coptis occidentalis fruit


Coptis teeta is used as a medicinal herb in China and the Eastern Himalayan regions of India particularly in Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh where it is used as a bitter tonic for treating malarial fever[1][2] and dyspepsia.[3] It is also believed to help insomnia in Chinese herbology.[citation needed] The roots contain the bitter alkaloid berberine.[4] Studies have shown that the species has become endangered both due to overexploitation as well as intrinsic genetic bottlenecks such as high cytoplasmic male sterility induced by genetic mutations.[5][6] As a result of the synaptic mutation and ensuing male sterility the sexual reproduction in the species is significantly depressed.[6] The dried roots (goldthread) were commercially marketed in Canada until the 1950s or early 60s, to be steeped into a "tea" and swabbed onto areas affected by thrush (candidiasis) infection.[citation needed]


Coptis aspleniifolia leaves

The species inhabits warm and cold temperate forests of oak-rhododendron association.[2] It is occasionally seen growing under bamboo thickets around Mayodia region of Dibang Valley district in the Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh in India. It flowers during early spring March–April and sets fruit/seed in July–August. The seedlings are rare and are often found germinating on moss laden dead wood on the forest floor or even on moss laden branches of Rhododendron. A new subspecies was recognised in C. teeta by Pandit & Babu and was named as subsp. lohitensis, which is morphologically very different from subsp. teeta and it is geographically distinct and inhabits broad leaf forests in Delai Valley of Lohit district in Arunachal Pradesh, India.[1]


  1. ^ a b Pandit MK, Babu CR, 1993. The cytology and taxonomy of Coptis teeta Wall. (Ranunculaceae). Botanical Journal of Linnean Society, 111 : 371 —378
  2. ^ a b Pandit MK, Babu CR, 1998. Biology and conservation of Coptis teeta Wall. – an endemic and endangered medicinal herb of Eastern Himalaya. Environmental Conservation, 25 (3) : 262 —272
  3. ^ Huang, J.; Long, C. (2007). "Coptis teeta-based agroforestry system and its conservation potential: A case study from northwest Yunnan". Ambio. 36 (4): 343–49. doi:10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[343:CTASAI]2.0.CO;2. PMID 17626473. S2CID 36420161.
  4. ^ Pandit, 1991. Biology & Conservation of Coptis teeta Wall. (Ranunculaceae). Ph.D. Thesis, University of Delhi
  5. ^ Pandit, M. K. & Babu, C. R. (2000) Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 133, 525–533.
  6. ^ a b Pandit, M. K. and Babu, C. R. 2003. “The effects of loss of sex in clonal populations of an endangered perennial Coptis teeta (Ranunculaceae),” Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, vol. 143, no. 1, pp. 47–54.

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