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, but 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' 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' long), being dissected at least twice into pinnate sections of "leaflets", typically 6-21, and each ultimate segment being heart-shaped and 4-6" 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" long and 2-3" 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
State StatusW6
US Status
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