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Glycyrrhiza lepidota (American licorice)
Smith, R.W.

Glycyrrhiza lepidota

Glycyrrhiza lepidota Pursh

American Licorice, Wild Licorice

Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Synonym(s): Glycyrrhiza glutinosa, Glycyrrhiza lepidota var. glutinosa

USDA Symbol: GLLE3

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

Erect perennial up to 4 ft. The stem is covered with minute, sticky hairs. Cream flowers, which resemble those of alfalfa, are crowded on a terminal spike. Leaves are pinnately compound. The brown fruit is covered with hooked spines and resembles a cocklebur.

The root has a distinct licorice flavor, but commercial licorice is obtained from another plant of this genus that is not a North American native.


From the Image Gallery

27 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Fruit Type: Legume
Size Notes: Up to about 4 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
Bloom Notes: Sometimes tinged with pale pink or purple.


USA: AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , MA , ME , MN , MO , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , NY , OK , OR , PA , RI , SD , TX , UT , VA , WA , WI , WY
Canada: AB , MB , SK
Native Distribution: W. Ont. to B.C., s. to n.w. MO, n. AR, TX, Mex. & CA
Native Habitat: Prairies; stream valleys; roadsides

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Variable; often in heavy clay or saline soils.


Use Wildlife: Deer and pronghorn eat the foliage. Upland game birds and small mammals eat the seeds. Pocket gophers eat the rhizomes.
Use Medicinal: Tea of peeled dried roots or leaves used for diarrhea and upset stomach. Root chewed and held in mouth for toothache. Tea made of roots used for coughs, chest pain and sore throat. (Kindscher) Root boiled in water to make tea drunk to speed delivery of placenta. Leaves steeped in water used for earache. (Weiner)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Supports Conservation Biological Control

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Silver-spotted Skipper
(Epargyreus clarus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Seeds germinate but the rate is somewhat low and decreases with treatment. Rhizome cuttings can be taken in spring or fall. Stem cuttings require intermittent mist.
Seed Treatment: Do not pretreat.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed 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:

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 1207 - Earth Medicine, Earth Food (1990) Michael A. Weiner
Bibref 610 - Edible wild plants of the prairie : an ethnobotanical guide (1987) Kindscher, K.
Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-02-13
Research By: TWC Staff

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