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Wild Sarsaparilla Aralia nudicaulis


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Wild Sarsparilla
credit: Halpaugh

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Family: Araliaceae, Ginseng view all from this family

Description Native perennial forb. Habit: erect, height 1-2 feet,with a single smooth stem holding 3 leaves. Leaf: finely toothed, 1.5-2 inches wide, pinnate with 3-7 (usually 5) ovate leaflets, dormant before fruit ripens. Flower: spherical white umbel on a leafless stalk arising directly from the base of the plant. Fruit: purple-black berries, edible. Root: creeping underground stems.

May be mistaken for poison ivy; the way to tell the difference is that Wild Sarsaparilla lacks a woody base and has fine teeth along the edges of the leaves.

Flower May-July.

Flower May - June

Habitat shade; moist to dry; woods.

Range Non-arctic Canada; northern and eastern U.S. south to Georgia in the east, west to Colorado and Washington.

Discussion The roots have been used as substitutes for true Sarsaparilla (Smilax sp.) in herbal medicine.

Also known as: False sarsaparilla, Shot bush, Small Spikenard, Wild Liquorice, Rabbit Root.

Comments Can become aggressive. Rootstock is used as a substitute for official sarsaparilla flavoring.

Exposure Preference Shade.

Native Distribution Transcontinental Canada, s. to Georgia mts., Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota & n.w. Montana

Site Preference Deciduous & coniferous woods

Soil Preference Poorer, relatively dry, soils. pH 5-6