Valeriana officinalis (Garden Heliotrope)
|Also known as:||Garden Valerian, White Valerian|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist or wet soil; shores, woodland edges, ditches, gardens|
|Bloom season:||July - October|
|Plant height:||3 to 6 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flat to round clusters up to 4 inches across of tiny trumpet shaped flowers. Flowers are pinkish to white, up to ¼ inch long with five round lobes; 3 creamy white stamens poke out of the tube. A plant may have multiple clusters on branching stems in the upper plant.
Leaves and stems:
The opposite, compound leaves are up the 8 inches long, each with 7-12 pairs of narrow lance-shaped, toothed leaflets with scattered hairs on lower surface. Leaves become smaller and leaflets become narrower as they ascend the stem. Stems are finely hairy, especially at nodes.
Fruit is a brown seed, about 1/8 inch long, with an array of feathery hairs radiating at the top.
Garden Heliotrope is a good example of how foreign invasive species typically exist for many decades in small isolated pockets. Population expansion is cryptic to casual observers until it suddenly becomes exponential and it starts showing up everywhere. Landowners and resource managers can expect this to become a frequent management problem in the near future while common backyard gardeners will have no notion that they are the source of the invasion. It is now becoming quite common on roadsides along the north shore of Lake Superior and will only get worse with time. The Wisconsin DNR recognized the potential threat this species presented back in the 1990s, and Connecticut has seen fit to ban it altogether.
While doing research on this species, I came across claim after claim of how beneficial it is to pollinators, but it is simply another nectar source—sugar water would do just as well, along with countless native species that provided nectar long before this plant ever arrived here. I have not found any account of Garden Heliotrope being a host plant for any native insects. Reading various gardeners' blogs, at first I found it interesting how excited they'd get when this wonder plant started spreading into all corners of their gardens. But this discourages me, as it demonstrates both the invasive nature of the beast, and the blindness of the average gardener to the invasive behavior.
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- Garden Heliotrope plants
- a roadside infestation
- infestation along the North Shore
- Garden Heliotrope with invasive Tansy and Reed Canary Grass
- sprouting plant
- pink tinged flowers
Photos by K. Chayka taken along the North Shore of Lake Superior, St. Louis County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at a nature center in Hennepin County, and in Winona County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?
on: 2014-06-16 17:02:57
Thank you ! Was going to purchase because of this: A list of good plants for tough sites (from UM Extension). I'm glad I investigated further.
on: 2014-07-30 19:32:35
This is the first infestation I've found in Ramsey County MN; near the intersection of County road D, Bellaire Ave and I694.
on: 2015-01-28 19:49:38
This is quite sad how negatively you speak of valeriana officinalis. Yes it is not native to MN, but it was brought here for a reason, it has many different amazing medicinal benefits! It's use was recorded by Hippocrates in Ancient Greek and Rome times. Valerian is a powerful nervine, stimulant, carminative, and antispasmodic. The plant alleviates pain and promotes sleep. A lot of people rely on this plant. If you find some please don't pick it, let the herbal community know so it can be properly cared for.
on: 2015-01-30 20:24:25
Alek, yes, we do speak very negatively about Valeriana officinalis. We are not unaware of its herbal uses, but humans are not the only living creatures on this planet. It is our responsibility to protect our native insects, birds and other wildlife. Invasive species such as Valeriana officinalis can pose significant threats to the delicate balance in nature by crowding out the native plants our native insects depend on to survive and thrive. When plant biodiversity declines, so do insects, then birds, then on up the food chain. We all lose in the end.
So I'm sorry, but if we find this plant in the wild, we will not save it, but continue to exterminate it when we can so that our native ecosystems are not degraded more than they already are.
If herbalists are bringing such plants into this country and allowing them to run amok, they have a role in the destruction of our natural areas. You should not condone this, but should learn to appreciate and restore the balance of nature and prevent such destruction in the future. Seems to me that would be a perfectly logical thing for a "naturalist" to do!
If you must have such plants, I ask you to be accountable for your actions and learn to propagate them responsibly so they cannot do harm to the non-human populations of this planet.
on: 2015-03-03 17:14:40
Alek was only requesting that in cases of infestation that the person contact the herbal community whom would probably be more than happy to dig it up and let others know. If we go along with the upsetting the delicate balance emergency eradication measures, maybe we ought to hike ourselves back to England, Ireland, Italy etc and give the Indians back their Garden of Eden. Not to mention Genetic modification, herbicides, fracking etc. etc.
on: 2015-07-24 11:02:42
It has exploded this year on our land outside of Duluth. I don't know how we are going to control it as it is everywhere. St. Johns Wort, Tansy, and Valerian are squeezing out everything else. Come on Herbalists! Yours for free.
on: 2015-07-31 15:00:18
Valerian has simply exploded in population here in Duluth these past two years, blanketing every roadside it seems. I never thought I would see something out-compete the tansy, but the valerian is doing so very handily. I don't think that an army of herbalists could make the slightest dent in the valerian population, but I'd be pleased to see them try! I can't keep it out of our gardens!
on: 2016-06-13 19:39:48
Volunteers and I just found a handful of mature plants and numerous seedlings along a footpath in Hilloway Park and within the best population of showy orchis known in Minnetonka. We dug out all that we found. Even the seedlings need to be dug--makes garlic mustard pulling seem easy. Yikes.
on: 2016-07-13 20:39:12
We have this on the edges of our yard in Duluth, and it is quite common on roadsides, as you have noted. A landscaping consultant we had brought in a few years ago told us it was Joe Pye weed, but I noticed the leaves don't look like Joe Pye weed. Thanks for the info!
on: 2016-07-20 21:15:54
There is a patch around 30x60 feet at the Koschak Farm Wildlife Management Area near Ely. I wish someone would eradicate it before it gets any larger.
on: 2016-09-19 04:03:05
I am a non-Minnesotan just back from vacationing in your state (second week of September). Saw colonies of this plant at multiple parks and pull-offs north of Duluth. I am still baffled by the nature of the diffuse purple pseudo-Joe-Pye structure at the top. Is this an inflorescence or an infructescence? Some had very tiny white flowers, but I saw no evidence of fruit, or perhaps didn't recognize it as such.
on: 2018-06-22 08:22:12
Found this in Fergus Falls growing in a couple of back yards.
on: 2019-08-10 22:10:29
I became aware of this plant around 1970 at my mom and dad's house near Snively Road in Duluth. It caught my attention because it was always popping up here and there in flower gardens. Its tiny flowers have a recognizable fragrance that I find disagreeable or annoying. I looked the plant up and identified it as an intruder in this country, so I frequently uprooted it and threw it on the lawn to die in the sun. I eventually was told by a friend of mine who happened to be a Siamese cat, that those partially dried Valerian roots lying on the lawn, smell VERY GOOD to cats. They roll around on them, smell them, and act playfully enjoyably intoxicated.
on: 2021-07-13 18:44:23
Many plants in full bloom in our wetland and horse pasture. Had a bit of trouble identifying it, thinking it may be queen ann's lace or poison hemlock.
on: 2022-06-15 17:00:37
At the Superior NF, we make garden valerian a priority target species for invasive plant treatments. It is currently relegated to only a handful of infestations but I worry greatly how much damage this plant will do as it continues to spread. I truly believe it is worse than tansy in many aspects. Unfortunately, we've located 2 very small populations at BW entry points recently (Seagull Lake and Brule Lake). I've been able to successfully treat these populations and will continue to monitor the area for more but I worry about their wind dispersed seeds escaping into the wilderness and disrupting the balance of natural ecosystems in one of the greatest wilderness in North America. I hope people become more aware of the dangers of this plant before the issue exponentiates past the point of no return.
on: 2022-10-06 14:03:57
Just saw this in the summer in the "bush"--knew it was not Queen Anne's lace but looked similiar--Thought it must have escaped from someone's flower garden but it was definitely taking over along the bush roadsides.
on: 2022-10-06 14:07:26
only came upon your site because I was looking for seeds for Valerian--to plant so i could harvest the roots for use in live mouse traps--apparently it attracts rodents. Another reason not to have it around home! So now i know where to go and dig it up. had a bit of snow already today--Sept 6.