Osmorhiza claytonii (Sweet Cicely)

Plant Info
Also known as: Clayton's Sweetroot
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; woods, thickets
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:1 to 3 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: flat

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in flat clusters (umbels), in groups (umbellets) of 4 to 7 flowers each, at the top of the plant and the ends of branching stems. Individual flowers are about 1/8 inch across, with 5 notched white petals, 5 white-tipped stamens, and 2 styles that are shorter than the petals (the arrows in the thumbnail photo point them out). At the base of each umbellet are several narrow, hairy bracts that spread downward.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 1 or 2 times compound in 3's. Basal and lower stem leaves are long stalked, becoming short stalked to stalkless as they ascend the stem. At the base of the stalk is a short appendage that sheathes the stem. Leaflets are up to 3 inches long and 2 inches wide, shallowly to deeply lobed with toothed edges, becoming smaller and less lobed as the ascend the stem.

[photo of leaf underside] Surfaces are hairy, especially along the veins on the underside. Stems and stalks, except the umbellet stalks, are densely covered in long, spreading white hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry brown seed ½ to 1 inch long that splits in 2 when ripe. It persists through the winter. Seeds are densely covered in appressed hairs.


Sweet Cicely and Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis) are very similar and easily confused. Aniseroot has more flowers per umbellet (8 to 16), styles longer than the petals, has short-hairy or hairless stems, the leaves are less deeply divided, and the foliage has an anise fragrance when crushed. The hairiness of the stems is usually the most noticeable difference.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Pine and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


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

Posted by: Alison - St. Paul, MN
on: 2010-07-09 13:32:04

This plant can be found at Lilydale Regional Park in Saint Paul, MN.

Posted by: Linda - Dakota County
on: 2011-07-15 10:38:04

I have found Sweet Cicely growing in small patches in the woods across the road from our home in South St Paul.

Posted by: Jay - Sherburne County
on: 2014-06-22 22:16:08

I think I have some of this growing in my yard but I'm having trouble identifying it. Could I send some photos for assistance? Sincerely, Jay

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-06-23 21:27:43

We prefer to identify mystery plants on our Facebook page. If you'd like private assistance, a donation to the project is appreciated.

Posted by: Helen - Afton, Minnesota
on: 2015-05-31 08:34:25

This is growing all over our woods I Afton. We are in the Anoka sand plain so the woods get pretty dry in the summer.

Posted by: Linda - Aitkin county
on: 2016-06-06 19:04:31

Several of these growing on the lakeside of our cabin

Posted by: Leah - New Brighton
on: 2016-06-07 18:14:38

Found on the shaded slopes of lower Rice Creek. More has been establishing after two years of garlic mustard control. Thank you for this comprehensive project.

Posted by: John M - W. St. Paul
on: 2017-05-25 22:05:50

It just popped up in the back of my house next to a currant bush and in a bed of Lily-of-the-Valley. Have no idea how it got there but this place was once owned by a gardening couple and every year something shows up that I hadn't seen here before.

Posted by: Erica T - Villa Park, Roseville
on: 2017-06-04 13:34:50

Both Osmorhiza claytonii and longistylis are present in Villa Park in Roseville. As Leah mentioned above, they are spreading well with removal of the garlic mustard as well as the buckthorn. Very pretty plants! :)

Posted by: Ron Johannsen - Trenton Lake Freeborn co.
on: 2021-05-17 16:12:24

Millions came into bloom this week.

Posted by: Tim Riley - Credit River
on: 2022-05-29 10:31:17

Found Clayton's sweetroot growing along my property's creek bank in Credit River, MN. Like others have said, it is growing well now that other plants (nettle, garlic mustard, etc) have been controlled.

Posted by: Holly Schmaling - Wisconsin
on: 2024-03-09 14:21:26

Love this plant and want to alert folks to a lookalike invasive so they can be sure not to let it get out of hand. Japanese hedge parsley is the invasive (Torillis japonica). Though it gets much taller than Sweet Cecily, the spring growth is very similar.

Posted by: bruce honnigford - Minnetonka
on: 2024-05-19 20:20:23

It took me a while to ID this plant but I have one specimen growing near a cottonwood tree on my property in Minnetonka. Goodle lens was now able to identify it definitively.

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