Aralia nudicaulis (Wild Sarsaparilla)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; average to moist soil; woods|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||8 to 24 inches|
|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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Round clusters 1 to 2 inches across of stalked flowers. Flowers are white or greenish white, about 1/8 inch across with 5 petals that curve back and downward. There are 5 white-tipped stamens that protrude from the center. Each plant has a few (usually 3) clusters that branch off a naked stem that arises from the base of the plant.
A single basal leaf with a whorl of 3 compound leaves at the tip of the long, naked stem. Leaves are compound in groups of 3 to 7, each leaflet is 3 to 5 inches long and up to 2 inches across, generally oval or widest above the middle, with a sharply pointed tip and finely toothed edges that may be a little wavy. Leaflet bases are often asymmetrical. The leaves tower over the shorter flowering stem, hiding it from view. The leaf and flowering stem are hairless and arise from a long rhizome.
The early leaves of Wild Sarsaparilla are often a shiny, bronzy color that looks rather similar to early Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii) leaves, which emerge about the same time. “Leaves of 3, let it be...” Wild Sarsaparilla often has more than 3 leaflets and its flower buds, which don't resemble Poison Ivy at all, will be out with the emerging leaves. The leaflet shape of mature plants doesn't much resemble those of Poison Ivy, and Wild Sarsaparilla leaflets are finely serrated where Poison Ivy leaves are smooth or coarsely toothed.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Wild Sarsaparilla plant
- a colony of Wild Sarsaparilla (in the background)
- early leaves can resemble Poison Ivy
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?