Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Aralia nudicaulis

Wild sarsaparilla

Araliaceae (Ginseng Family)

Aralia nudicaulis (Wild sarsaparilla)
Cressler, Alan
A single leaf stalk grows 18-24, dividing into three parts each with five oval leaflets. A separate stalk, shorter than the leaf stalk, bears ball-shaped clusters of tiny, greenish-white flowers followed in fall by dark purple berries. The leafless flower stem, topped with clusters of greenish-white flowers, is beneath a large, umbrella-like leaf. Often grows in colonies from extensive rootstock. The species name, from the Latin nudus (naked) and cauli (stalk), refers to the leafless flowerstalk.

Image Gallery:

14 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Subshrub
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Leaf: Dark Green
Flower: Flowers 1.5-2 in.
Fruit: Black, Purple
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: May , Jun


USA: CO , CT , DE , GA , ID , IL , IN , IA , KY , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MO , MT , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , ND , OH , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VT , VA , WA , WV , WI , WY , DC
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NT , NS , ON , PE , QC , SK , YT
Native Distribution: Transcontinental Canada, s. to GA mts., OH, IL, MN, SD & n.w. MT
Native Habitat: dry to moist woods

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Poorer, relatively dry, soils.
Conditions Comments: Can become aggressive. Rootstock is used as a substitute for official sarsaparilla flavoring.


Use Food: The rhizome is aromatic and was used as emergency food by First Nations People (Clough). The root was used to make root beer and can be made into a tea. The aromatic rhizomes of this plant are used as a substitute for sarsaparilla.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Last Update: 2015-05-12