wild sarsaparilla

(Aralia nudicaulis)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

wild sarsaparilla

NatureServe

N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Wetland
Indicator
Status

Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland

Midwest

FACU - Facultative upland

Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland

Nativity

Native

Occurrence

Common

Habitat

Moist to dry. Deciduous and mixed woodlands, thickets, river bottoms, prairie edges, bog edges. Shade tolerant.

Photo by Bill Reynolds
Flowering

May to June

 
Flower Color

White

 
Height

12 to 24

 

Identification

This is a 12 to 24 tall, erect, perennial forb. There is no aerial stem. It rises as basal leaves and a flowering stalk (peduncle) from the tip of a long, creeping, 1¼ to 4¾ deep, underground stem (rhizome). It often forms colonies.

In mid-April or May usually one leaf, sometimes two or three leaves, emerge from the leaf litter. The leaves expand in early spring before the canopy closes. Each leaf is deciduous, 6 to 15¾ long, is on a long leaf stalk (petiole), and is divided into three compound segments. The petiole is slender, 6 to 13¾ long, light green to dark red, and hairless. It is not spiny. Each primary segment is pinnately divided into usually 5, sometimes 3 or 7, leaflets. The two lateral segments are distinctly asymmetrical, with the inner (toward the terminal segment) leaflets smaller than the outer (toward the petiole) leaflets.

The leaflets are narrowly elliptic to broadly egg-shaped, 1¼ to 6 long, and up to 2 wide. The leaflet blade is rounded, narrowed, or somewhat heart-shaped at the base and tapered to a sharp point at the tip with concave sides along the tip. The lateral leaflets are slightly asymmetrical at the base. The upper surface is green and hairless. The lower surface is slightly lighter green and minutely hairy along the main veins. The margins are finely toothed with sharp, forward pointing teeth.

The inflorescence appears in May to June. It is a single umbrella-shaped cluster (umbel) of usually 3, sometimes only 2 or as many as 7, umbrella-shaped, secondary clusters (umbellets) of flowers. Each primary umbel is on a long peduncle that rises from the rhizome and has up to 40 or more flowers. The peduncle is 3 to 10 long, leafless, and minutely hairy toward the tip. It is usually much shorter than the petiole, causing the inflorescence to be hidden beneath the leaves. Each umbellet is globe-shaped, about ¾ tall, and 1½ to 2 in diameter.

The individual flowers are to 3 16 wide. The sepals are insignificant. There are 5 petals, 5 stamens with white anthers, and 5 styles. The petals are white or greenish-white, 1 32to 1 16 long, and strongly bent backward. The stamens have long white filaments that project well beyond the petals. The styles are fused together at the base and strongly appressed together for the rest of their length.

The fruit is a globe-shaped, ¼ to long, purplish-black berry with usually 5 seeds. It matures in about 32 days. It is edible but is not palatable.

 
Similar
Species

Bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) is a much larger plant, up to 60 tall, that rises on an aerial stem. The stem is leafy and sharply bristly at the base.

Northern shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) seedlings look similar to flowerless wild sarsaparilla plants. The outer (closest to the petiole) leaflets of hickory leaves are always smaller than the inner (closest to the terminal segment) leaflets.


Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28.


Comments

 


Taxonomy

Family:

Araliaceae (ginseng)

 

Subfamily:

Aralioideae

 

Tribe:

Aralieae

 
Synonyms

 

 
Common
Names

American-sarsaparilla

rabbitroot

shotbush

small-spikenard

Virginia-sarsaparilla

wild licorice

wild sarsaparilla


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

compound leaf

A leaf that is divided into leaflets, each leaflet having the general appearance of a leaf, with all leaflets attached to a single leaf stem.

 

filament

On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.

 

peduncle

In angiosperms, the stalk of a single flower or a flower cluster; in club mosses, the stalk of a strobilus or a group of strobili.

 

petiole

The stalk of a leaf blade or compound leaf that attaches the leaf blade to the stem.

 

pinnate

Having the leaflets of a compound leaf arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk.

 

rhizome

A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.

 

umbel

A flat-topped or convex, umbrella-shaped cluster of flowers or buds arising from more or less a single point.

 

umbellet

A secondary umbel in a compound umbel.

       

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Bill Reynolds


  wild sarsaparilla    

       
       
       

MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos

   

Plant

  wild sarsaparilla   wild sarsaparilla
       
  wild sarsaparilla    
       

Inflorescence

  wild sarsaparilla    
       

Leaves

  wild sarsaparilla   wild sarsaparilla
       

Infructescence

  wild sarsaparilla   wild sarsaparilla
       
       

 

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Slideshows

   
  Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
Andree Reno Sanborn
 
  Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)  
 
About

Preferred spring food of Moose, Whitetail Deer. Black Bear consume the fruits.

Birds: Food for Ruffed Grouse and thrushes

History:
Used by Native Americans to brew a tea

Rhizomes have been used to make beverages such as root beer.

Uses:
Alterative, pectoral, diaphoretic, sudorific. Used as a substitute for Smilax Sarsaparilla is useful inpulmonary diseases and externally as a wash for indolent ulcers and shingles. It is said to be used by the Crees under the name of Rabbit Root for syphilis and as an application to recent wounds. It contains resin, oil, tannin, albumen, an acid, mucilage, and cellulose.

Emerges from leaf litter by mid-April or May;

Leaves expand before the canopy closes.

Flowers May/July.

Fruits mature in about 32 days.

Leaves begin to drop by mid-September.

Dormant in winter.

Other common names include Aralia, False Sarsaparilla, Wild Sarsaparilla, Shot Bush, Small Spikenard, Wild Liquorice, Rabbit Root, Salsepareille

from www.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/herbs/aralianud.html

 
     

 

slideshow

     

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Other Videos

 
  wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis )
wvoutdoorman
 
   
 
About

Published on Apr 23, 2012

wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) plant

 
     
  "The Herb Guy" How to Identify Wild Herb Sarsaparilla
KEVINNOAD1
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Aug 9, 2010

How to identify the healing herb wild Sarsaparilla in early spring, the best time to dig up the root for for killing Lyme disease.

 
     
  Wild Sarsaparilla
raisingmyhand
 
   
 
About

Published on Jul 25, 2013

No description available.

 
     

 

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Visitor Sightings

   
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Bill Reynolds
6/1/2014

Location: Pennington Co.

 

wild sarsaparilla


     
     
 

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