Aralia racemosa (Spikenard)
|Also known as:||American Spikenard|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; rich woods|
|Plant height:||3 to 7 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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:
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.
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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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?