Barrenwort is an unusual and rare herbaceous plant. It is an Epimedium that is also called Bishop’s Hat and Longspur. It is a shade lover that is native to the Mediterranean and temperate East Asia.
Barrenwort produces lovely heart to lance shaped leaflets. These have attractive veining and come in bronzy pink before maturing to green. Fall foliage may be edged with maroon or gold. Leaves are primarily basal and divided 2 or 3 times, giving the plant an airy appearance where they are set upon wiry stems. Barrenwort flowers are delicate 4-petaled blooms that hang in racemes and come in a range of colors. The flowers resemble columbine, and have a spur flirtatiously tipping the base of the bloom. Flower colors range from pink, lavender, beige, yellow, purple, white or red. The plant grows from rhizomes, which are difficult to find, but can be purchased at specialty nurseries. Over time barrenwort naturalizes to form a dense mat of foliage, making it an excellent perennial ground cover for low light situations.