Aralia racemosa (Spikenard)

Plant Info
Also known as: American Spikenard
Family:Araliaceae (Ginseng)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods
Bloom season:July
Plant height:3 to 7 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Flower clusters are long, irregular branched panicles that emerge from leaf axils up and down the main and branching stems, and are made up of smaller round clusters of stalked flowers all arising from the same point (umbels). Individual flowers are pale green to greenish white, less than 1/8 inch across with 5 triangular, blunt tipped petals that are often reflexed back against the receptacle. 5 prominent, white stamens extend from the center surrounding a single, short style. Flower stalks are densely covered in very short white hairs, giving them a frosty look.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are few but large, twice compound, over 2 feet long and nearly as wide. Leaflets are to 5½ inches long, oval but typically heart-shaped at the base, abruptly tapering to a sharply pointed tip, sharply toothed, sometimes with fine hairs along the underside veins, on slender stalks. Stems are stout, usually dark maroon and generally smooth or covered in short, fine hairs. Many branched, it often grows wider than tall.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a berry-like capsule ¼ inch in diameter, 5-sectioned, plumping up, turning dark purple, and resembling elderberries when ripe.


Aralia racemosa is a large, spreading, shrub-like plant at maturity, dying all the way back to the ground during the dormant season so is technically not a shrub. Highly shade tolerant, it makes an excellent urban shade garden specimen providing wildlife habitat in both structure and food. It's also an excellent substitute for gardeners who find the shape and form of the highly invasive Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) desirable.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Washington counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Pat - Cass co.
on: 2013-08-25 23:42:54

Found one plant growing in a deeply wooded, wettish area. A thrill for me and I will collect seeds this fall.

Posted by: Janet - Afton
on: 2014-09-04 10:33:39

I saw this plant growing in Afton at Squire House Gardens and purchased it there for my garden in Wisconsin. The grounds at Squire House Garden are beautiful and inspiring. I also saw Angelica gigas, something I'd never seen. This I didn't see available for purchase.

Posted by: jana - Near Gunsten Lake, Lake County
on: 2015-08-24 10:45:28

Growing wild along the forest road between Gunsten and Swallow Lakes

Posted by: Kevin - Falls Creek SNA
on: 2016-07-10 06:37:51

About 50 yards down the path to Falls Creek SNA

Posted by: Kristin - St. Paul east side
on: 2016-09-08 14:39:41

Quite a few of these have been planted at Sun Ray Library, in various conditions of sunny or shady. The soil in general is sandy loam. I am learning a lot about this plant by observing it there!

Posted by: cheryl b - elm creek park reserve in hennepin county
on: 2017-08-30 01:49:40

Found a nice patch of this fruiting right now in Elm Creek Park Reserve.

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