Achlys triphylla (Sm.) DC.
Sweet After Death, Sweet-after-death, Vanilla Leaf
Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)
Synonym(s): Achlys triphylla ssp. triphylla
USDA Symbol: ACTR
This perennial is a spreading ground cover. Large leaves, divided into three leaflets, rise at close intervals from underground runners and are long-lasting. Stalks, less than 8 in. high, produce numerous tiny, petalless, whitish flowers clustered together in a narrow, fluffy spike. Pairs of low slender stalks grow in patches, one stalk actually a petiole, having at its tip a round leaf blade with 3 broad, fan-shaped leaflets; the other stalk ending in a narrow spike of small white flowers. The dried plants have a vanilla fragrance.
The large, 3-part leaf is unusual, like that of its only close relative, California Vanilla Leaf (A. californica), found nearer the coast, but which generally has 6-8 (rarely up to 12) teeth on the central leaflet.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Complexity: Palmate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Margin: Entire
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Follicle
Size Notes: Up to about 8 inches tall.
Flower: Stamens 3-4 mm
Fruit: Red-purple 3-4.5 mm
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul
DistributionUSA: CA , OR , WA
Native Distribution: S. B.C. to n.w. CA
Native Habitat: Moist, coastal forests; stream banks
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Moist, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Vanilla leaf can crowd out other plants but does not compete well with more vigorous ground covers.
BenefitUse Medicinal: Medicinally, Native Americans used preparations of the leaves of Achlys triphylla to treat tuberculosis, for a hair wash, and as an emetic (D. E. Moermann 1986).
Interesting Foliage: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
PropagationDescription: Propagate by root divisions or by seed.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Achlys triphylla in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Achlys triphylla in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Achlys triphylla
MetadataRecord Modified: 2007-01-01
Research By: TWC Staff