Epimedium flavum (barrenwort)
Epimedium flavum is a herbaceous perennial with upright stems and bright yellow flowers, produced mainly in spring.
About this species
More species of Epimedium grow in China at elevations between 500 m and 3,700 m in the woodlands of Sichuan Province in than in any other region. One of these, Epimedium flavum was first collected there in 1992 and named in 1995 by the British botanist William Stearn. Two other yellow-flowered species from the same area are similar: E. davidii (with smaller, red inner sepals, usually larger leaves and compact rhizome) and E. fangii (pale reddish inner sepals and creeping rhizomes).
William Stearn named Epimedium flavum and many other species of Epimedium and wrote a monograph, The Genus Epimedium and other Herbaceous Berberidaceae, published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2002.
Geography & Distribution
Epimedium flavum is found in Sichuan Province (Tianquan Xian, on the eastern side of Erlang Shan), central China, at elevations of 1,800–2,000 m.
Epimedium flavum (Image: RBG Kew)
Epimedium flavum has a compact rhizome and forms dense clumps, reaching up to 30 cm tall. The leaves have five (sometimes three) leaflets. The leaflets are heart-shaped, rounded and have sharp teeth around the margin. It has 3–10 sulphur-yellow, long-spurred flowers on upright stems. The flowers are around 3 cm across and have four inner sepals 11 mm long with rounded petals and slightly curved, spreading spurs.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Epimedium flavum illustrated by Christabel King (1995) in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Image: Christabel King)
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
See the Wiley-Blackwell Subscription Information page for rates (for both print and online).
Threats & Conservation
Epimedium flavum is included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (VU D2). Species listed as VU D2 face a high risk of extinction because of their limited distribution (i.e. restricted area of occurrence or small number of locations) and are vulnerable to the effects of human activities or random disasters. They may therefore become Critically Endangered or even Extinct in the short term.
Epimedium flavum is grown as an ornamental.
This species at Kew
Epimedium flavum is growing in the Woodland Garden.
Pressed and dried, and alcohol-preserved specimens of Epimedium flavum are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world by appointment. The details of some of these specimens can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.
Buy ‘The Genus Epimedium: and other Herbaceous Berberidaceae’ from Kewbooks.com
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
This species belongs to...
- newly discovered
- around the world
- of use
- ground breaking
- english garden
- garden plants
- english heritage
Plants & Fungi blogs from Kew
27 Jan 2014
Alan Paton, Assistant Keeper of Kew's Herbarium, describes some of the problems associated with plant names and the importance of the new release of The Plant List.
16 Dec 2013
Rhian Smith takes a closer look at Christmas trees and their relatives, and describes the scientific work Kew is carrying out on the taxonomy, biogeography and evolution of this important group of plants.
09 Dec 2013
Sarah Cody explains how gap analysis is helping our partners collect the seed of crop wild relatives (CWR) for a project called 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change', run jointly by Kew's Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
25 Jan 2013
He may be a Seed Morphologist but Wolfgang Stuppy of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank discovers there is more to the snake gourd than just some strange fruit and eccentric seeds.
03 Jun 2013
The southeast Asian plant Durian has been called the King of Fruits but, like Marmite, it sharply divides opinion between those who love the incredible taste of its custard-like pulp and those who are revolted by its putrid smell.