Wild-Sarsaparilla. Aralia nudicaulis L.

Figure 119.—Wild-sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

Other Common Names

False sarsaparilla Virginian sarsaparilla, American sarsaparilla, small spikenard, rabbitroot, shotbush, wild licorice.

Habitat And Range

Wild-sarsaparilla grows in rich, moist woods from Newfoundland west to Manitoba and south to North Carolina and Missouri.


This plant produces a single, long-stalked leaf and flowering stalk from a very short stem. The leafstalk is about 12 inches long and is divided at the top into three parts each bearing about five leaflets from 2 to 5 inches long. The flowering stalk produces in May to June three flower clusters consisting of from 12 to 30 small greenish flowers followed later in the season by round purplish black berries. The rootstock is rather long, creeping, somewhat twisted, and possesses a very fragrant, aromatic odor and a warm, aromatic taste.

Other Species

The American spikenard (Aralia racemosa L.), known also as spignet, spiceberry, Indian root, petty-morrel, life-of-man, and old-man's root, is used for the same purpose as A. nudicaulis. It is distinguished from this by its taller form, its much-branched stem from 3 to 6 feet high, and very large leaves. The flowers are arranged in numerous clusters instead of only three, as in A. nudicaulis, and they appear several months later. The range of this species extends as far south as Georgia.

Part Used

The root, collected in autumn.