• Hydrastis canadensis;
  • threatened;
  • risk;
  • restoration;
  • recovery;
  • transplanting;
  • disturbance simulation;
  • soil turnover;
  • fertilization

Abstract Having evolved in an environment with large, severe, and frequent disturbances, including massive floods, fires, and impacts of extinct and extirpated fauna, woodland herbs may be adapted to such disturbance processes. Present lack of such disturbances may contribute to present rarity. We test the hypothesis that transplanting with disturbance simulation can be used to restore the threatened woodland herb, Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal). Three disturbance-simulation treatments (soil turnover, fertilization, and both) and a control were randomly applied to 100 blocks in goldenseal habitat, and a single rhizome was transplanted into each treatment. Transplanting was effective with 85% of the transplants surviving, 41% flowering, and 34% fruiting; thus, transplanting may increase area of occupancy. Soil turnover alone and combined with fertilization caused a significant increase in plant size available to support production of fruit. Increased flower and significantly increased fruit production were also characteristic of soil-turned plots. Results support the hypothesis that some woodland herbs are rare due to lack of certain disturbance, call for consideration of soil disturbance as a potentially important and beneficial influence on woodland herbs regardless of light effects, and suggest that transplanting into soil-overturned plots may restore goldenseal. The assumption that undisturbed conditions are optimal may impede effective management of rare woodland flora, highlighting the need for a more flexible approach.