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Sarsaparilla ~ Aralia nudicaulis Plant Care Guide



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.

Description.—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.


Sarsaparilla may refer to:

  • Several breeds of plants:


    How to Plant Wild Sarsaparilla Roots

    Aralia nudicaulis fruit


    Wild sarsaparilla is native to North America. This herbaceous perennial makes good ground cover for any woodland garden. Wild sarsaparilla roots can grow up to 24 inches tall with a 24-inch spread. They are hardy down to USDA zone 3. They have little white flowers in the early summer and berries in the fall that can be used in cooking. Planting wild sarsaparilla roots in your garden will give you access to this great plant all spring and summer.

    Step 1

    Choose a place in your garden to plant the wild sarsaparilla roots. Wild sarsaparilla roots like full to partial sun and well drained soil. They are not picky about soil type or pH.

    Step 2

    Dig holes for the wild sarsaparilla roots. Dig the holes as deep as the rhizomes and two times as wide.

    Step 3

    Place the wild sarsaparilla roots in the holes with the foliage above the surface of the soil. Fill the holes with soil and pat them down firmly with you hands.

    Step 4

    Water the wild sarsaparilla roots until the soil is moist.

    Tips and Warnings

    Do not allow the soil around wild sarsaparilla roots to dry out or the plant may die.

    Things You’ll Need



    • Wild Sarsaparilla
    • Sun Valley Garden Center: Wild Sarsaparilla

    Who Can Help

    Rhode Island Wild Plant Society: Wild Sarsaparilla Aralia nudicaulis


    See Also …

    Aralia nudicaulis L.  ~ wild sarsaparilla

    Plants for a Future



5 responses

  1. If you have smilax growing you needed worry about it dying from weather. It is tough. And smells divine … it can be trained up and over fences or trellis.

    June 5, 2013 at 2:31 am

    • sweet, thank you again, love sarsaparilla. if i find some i know what to with now. i need something for a trellis on east side besides morning glories

      June 5, 2013 at 11:42 am

  2. There are some other viney plants that some folk also call smilax which don’t smell good and have more stickers all over. They have a tuber like root which I have read can be used to make pipes, but I don’t think so. The European variety maybe, but this one tastes and smells nasty. Supposedly it has anti-inflammatory properties, but I think it would make a better emetic. Yuck. It is everywhere grabbing ankles. I pull it up when it is in my paths or in my yucky-stuff-free areas. The one I don’t pull up smells like sassafras and does not have so many stickers. The stickery smilax does have some pretty flowers, but the flowers are usually high in the trees (here) in order to get sun to bloom. Those vines grow close to the water oak and hickory and up the trunk rather that being ankle rakes. When on the trees, I leave ’em and they get thick and woody with the stickers being on the new growth. I found (real) sassafrass growing near my house in Wakulla County, Florida, and this county Nassau County, Florida is very similar, but I have not found sassafrass near me.

    June 5, 2013 at 2:55 am

    • thank you for tips, i have not either plant here yet

      June 5, 2013 at 11:40 am

  3. Pingback: Aralia hispida | Find Me A Cure

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