Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for American Spikenard - Aralia racemosa   L.
Members of Araliaceae:
Members of Aralia with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Araliaceae
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DistributionThroughout the Mountains; scattered in the Piedmont east to Caswell, Durham, and Randolph counties.

This is a widespread mostly Northern species, ranging from Canada south to northern GA and AR.
AbundanceGenerally common in the Mountains, uncommon in foothill Piedmont, rare and local in the northern Piedmont.
HabitatThis is a characteristic species of cove forests and other rich hardwood forests in the Mountains. In the Piedmont it is found mainly in Basic Mesic Forests; thus it strongly favors circumneutral soil in NC.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a very robust herb, almost shrub-like, growing to 4-6 feet tall with long and spreading leaves. Unlike with A. nudicaulis, in A. racemosa the scattered leaves come off a single stem with the inflorescence. The leaves emerge alternately, but each is "huge" (up to 2-2.5 feet long), being dissected at least twice into pinnate sections of "leaflets", typically 6-21, and each ultimate segment being heart-shaped and 4-6 inches long. You may need to look at photos to understand what a single leaf looks like! The inflorescence is a large panicle, often 6-8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide, of small umbels of white flowers. More noticeable are the numerous dark purple berries on this panicle by late summer. Though it would seem to be a quite easily identified species, at a distance it looks like some other robust species, even some shrubs; you might note that the leaves/leaflets tend to look layered and are arranged in a horizontal plane.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Small Spikenard; a number of other seldom used names
State RankS4
Global RankG4G5
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US Status
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B.A. SorrieMesic montane woods, early July 2021. ClayPhoto_natural
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