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Aralia nudicaulis (Wild sarsaparilla)
Cressler, Alan

Aralia nudicaulis

Aralia nudicaulis L.

Wild Sarsaparilla

Araliaceae (Ginseng Family)


USDA Symbol: ARNU2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

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.


From the Image Gallery

18 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Subshrub
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Complexity: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.
Leaf: Dark Green
Flower: Flowers 1.5-2 in.
Fruit: Black, Purple

Bloom Information

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


USA: CO , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , NT , 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


Description: Divide the creeping rootstock while the plant is dormant. Sarsaparilla can be grown from seed sown when ripe, but seedlings mature slowly.
Seed Collection: Seeds can be recovered fro the fruit by maceration and flotation.
Seed Treatment: Seeds may require cool-moist stratification.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 26 - Minnesota Wildflowers: a field guide to the flora of Minnesota (2009)
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Aralia nudicaulis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Aralia nudicaulis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Aralia nudicaulis


Record Modified: 2022-11-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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