Common Names

The Canada moonseed is sometimes called yellow parilla or sarsaparilla, and vine-maple.

Fruiting Plant of Canada Moonseed, and Seed

Fruiting Plant of Canada Moonseed, and Seed.


One of our most beautiful perennial twining plants, the Canada moonseed is found in the woods bordering streams and lakes, climbing over shrubs in search of higher support or twining around small trees. One of the shrubs about which it delights to twine is the prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum Mill.). It may sometimes be seen attaining a height of twelve to fifteen feet on large maples, the succession of beautiful green leaves overlapping and forming a graceful covering for the bare trunk. In the summer, the small greenish-white flowers are seen, and in the autumn the rich grape-like clusters of blue berries or drupes. The leaves are heart-shaped, or angled, with three to seven lobes, the stalk set slightly within the margin. The flowers are of two kinds, growing on separate plants, the pollen-bearing or staminate and the seed-bearing or pistillate. The berries each contain one hard seed, which is crescent shaped. The plant blooms from June to July, and the fruit is ripe in September.


This attractive native vine grows in woods along ' streams from Western Quebec to Manitoba, and is being introduced by cultivation into other parts of Canada.

Poisonous Properties

Canada moonseed is a northern member of a family which chiefly belongs to the tropics and of which many plants contain powerfully toxic principles used as fish poisons. Some species of Abuta are used in the preparation of the well-known curare poison. For this reason, perhaps, a certain amount of suspicion has naturally fallen upon the moonseed, and it must remain so until more is known of it. The fruit, which ripens about the same time as the wild grape, is always tempting to children and, according to Schnaffner, three fatalities have occurred. The rootstock contains a bitter alkaloid menispine, and berberine, as well as the alkaloid oxyacanthine.

Plate XVII

Canada Moonseed.

Photo - F. Fyles.

Canada Moonseed.