Goldenseal: non-detriment finding

Published 2007-10-25 - Revised 2014-02-017

Hydrastis canadensis L. (Goldenseal) Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) for Canada

Goldenseal is on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II. CITES export permits are required for underground parts (i.e. roots, rhizomes): whole, parts and powdered. Footnote1

Summary of finding:

Export of wild goldenseal is considered detrimental.

  • The CITES Scientific Authority cannot make a finding of non-detriment for wild goldenseal based on its: low abundance in a fragmented and restricted habitat, low regeneration potential, low dispersal efficiency, the lack of ecological factors required for population growth and spread, and continuing habitat destruction. Therefore, export of wild goldenseal from Canada is not permitted.

  • The main threats to goldenseal are habitat loss and alteration, lack of ecological components required for population growth and expansion such as effective dispersal and regeneration, as well as appropriate levels of natural disturbance. Its increasing popularity as a natural health product/nutraceutical has heightened the risk for illegal harvest of this species.

  • Goldenseal is listed as threatened at the federal level under the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) and provincially on the Species at Risk in Ontario List (SARO). Of the known goldenseal populations in Ontario, 41% are found on federal lands or in Provincial Parks and are therefore protected by SARA and the Provincial Parks Act , respectively. No legal protection is offered on private property.

  • This species has a wide range in North America; however, in Canada populations are small and restricted to deciduous woodland fragments in south-western Ontario.

  • Abundance of goldenseal is low in Canada (only 28 small, isolated populations known), with most populations declining rapidly. The continuing loss of habitat and the increasing popularity of goldenseal as a nutraceutical pose a substantial risk to remaining Canadian goldenseal populations.

  • Despite the increasing popularity of goldenseal in natural health products, the risk of illegal harvest and trade of wild goldenseal is considered moderate at this time. Due to their small size and fragmented distribution remaining populations would offer little or no profit on single or repeated collection. Population monitoring (currently involving members of both federal and provincial governments as well as private landowners) is ongoing and a goldenseal recovery team is currently under development.

Supporting information:

Biological characteristics:

Goldenseal is a clonal perennial plant that undergoes predominately vegetative propagation; reproduction is limited via seed due to low germination rates. Predominately found in disturbed portions of deciduous woodlands near floodplains in south-western Ontario, this species has a slow rate of growth and inefficient dispersal abilities.


Goldenseal is listed as a threatened species under the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) and on the Species at Risk in Ontario List (SAROM). Major threats to the species include habitat loss and alteration, along with absence of the ecological requirements (e.g. effective dispersal and substrate disturbance) necessary for its population growth and expansion. There are currently 28 small, isolated populations in a restricted range which are considered stationary overall. However, threats to these populations are substantial, especially due to habitat loss and the increasing popularity of goldenseal as a natural health product.

Harvest management:

Illegal harvest has occurred on private land via trespassing and in protected areas or those under resource management. The collection of wild roots in Ontario Parks and the export of wild roots from Canada are prohibited.

Control of harvest:

Goldenseal is afforded protection on federally and provincially owned land under both SARA and the Provincial Parks Act , and therefore harvest is prohibited in these areas. No legal protection is offered on private property.

Harvest trend:

Illegal harvesting of wild goldenseal populations (on both private and protected land) has increased based on initial counts and observations. A single harvest could eradicate most populations due to their small size; however, this and the likelihood of multiple harvests of the same population are considered low due to their small and fragmented size which would render little or no profit on single or repeated collection.

Harvest monitoring:

Goldenseal populations are currently monitored via direct population estimates. Baseline data are available for 1990 and population surveys were taken in 1998 to 2001 inclusive, 2003 and 2004. A conservation network of landowners is in place to facilitate future monitoring. Under SARA, ecosystem-based recovery teams covering the range of goldenseal will aim to protect its habitat as well as monitor its status as a species included in these recovery initiatives. A goldenseal recovery team is currently under development which will provide more direct protection and monitoring efforts.

Incentives and benefits of harvest:

Wild harvest does not provide conservation benefit given the few and small wild populations with an average stationary growth rate and the widely varying rates of increase and decline among populations. Harvest is currently considered to be highly negative to population survival.

Protection from harvest:

Via the Species at Risk Act and the Provincial Parks Act , 41% of the known naturally occurring goldenseal populations are afforded legal protection.

Jurisdictional break-down:


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