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.
- Several breeds of plants:
- Smilax regelii, also known as Honduran or Jamaican sarsaparilla
- Smilax aristolochiifolia, known as Mexican sarsaparilla
- Smilax aspera, a flowering vine found worldwide
- Alphitonia, known as sarsaparilla in Australia
- Hardenbergia violacea, known as sarsaparilla in Australia
- Aralia nudicaulis, known as wild sarsaparilla
- Hemidesmus indicus, or Indian sarsaparilla
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.
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.
- Rook.org: Wild Sarsaparilla
- Sun Valley Garden Center: Wild Sarsaparilla
Dig holes for the wild sarsaparilla roots. Dig the holes as deep as the rhizomes and two times as wide.
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.
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
Who Can Help
Rhode Island Wild Plant Society: Wild Sarsaparilla Aralia nudicaulis
See Also …